Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

We all know that you can’t really learn to play Irish traditional music well without listening to a whole boatload of it - or at least *most* of us know that.

But once you’ve been playing for a number of years, and have a decent grasp of the swing, lift, and ornamentation that makes it sound Irish, what about learning tunes strictly from dots or ABC?

Let me state that I don’t think I’ve ever done that… Generally, I have to have heard a tune played either by someone I know, or from a recording, before I’m interested in it enough to learn it. (The exception might be a tune I learned for a wedding once that was a request of the bride’s, and I couldn’t find a recording…)

But I’m guessing that this isn’t always the case for some folks. So while an aural source would be preferable, is it OK to learn a tune exclusively from the dots or ABC? Dow posted something in another thread that got me to thinking about this, and I got curious as to whether anyone ever does this… Discuss…

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I think it’s ok to learn tunes from dots or abc once you know the music. However, that other thread was a different thing. I’m afraid I’m guilty of assuming that the poster of that thread isn’t completely familiar with the music yet. If they were, then they’d almost certainly know Lady Anne Montgomery already - it’s a very common session tune. It’s the sort of tune you should be able to pick up from sessions through constant exposure. It doesn’t make sense to me why someone should look at the dots and go "that tune doesn’t make sense on paper", when what they should be saying is "those dots don’t tally with the tune that’s already playing in my head" - that’s if you really must look at the dots at all. If the tune is already playing in your head, then you shouldn’t need the dots. It’s a vicious circle. I wish people would just chuck them out and just learn to play. People don’t realise that you can’t learn to play the music from the dots. They’re the ones who end up coming to sessions and just playing a bunch of notes in a long string, in the right order. But that’s not music, and most of the time they don’t understand that. I’ve seen this happen so often it’s depressing…

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I have to believe if Frankie Gavin or Matt Molloy was sent off with the dots to a tune they’d never heard before and they came back to play it for us all, no one here would be able to tell. Or would dare say it wasn’t "authentic."

That said, it seems a mere mortal like myself has to have the tune firmly planted in my brain before I can learn it - at which point I most often call on the help of dots, though sometimes not. Others would have to be the judge of whether I play them well or not.

Posted by .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Pete - just curious here — why would you decide to learn a tune that you have never heard?

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Why wouldn’t you? John Offord has single-handedly rescued loads of English tunes from obscurity by collecting them and republishing them
http://members.aol.com/DrAJDoyle/music/ellisk01.html
Although I otherwise totally agree with Dow here. - you need to know the feel of this music. Too many classical knobs dive straight into this genre thinking they know best and subsequently massacre thousands of perfectly innocent little tunes in their naked genotypic dotted condition.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

There’s a load of tunes I learnt by first seeing them mentioned as good’uns on these pages, prompting me to seek out ABC versions to give them a go. Only later did I find a recording, or hear someone else play one of them at a session. Some examples: Diplodocus by Liz Carroll - learnt it from ABC dots and got on OK with it, and only later bought the Trian album with it on. I’ve been recently learning Baltimore Salute and Trip to Birmingham and I only heard of those here, and then I was able to recognise the latter when someone played it - I haven’t got recordings of either of those. Sometimes I get attracted by a title, for example, Mayor Harrison’s Fedora - had to give it a go, and only later did I hear someone play it. I’m a magpie for collecting ABC archives if I ever see one, and you can search them for key words to locate obscure tunes. Mostly though I search for ABC transcriptions of tunes that I’ve heard, but it can definitely be the othe way round. How do you think people learnt tunes in the old days? They compiled tune books like the ones here: http://www.village-music-project.org.uk/index.htm
I hope this won’t turn into one of those interminable discussions about dots versus ear. You can play a basic tune from written music, but folk styles are impossible to transcribe and need to be heard - end of argument!

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

In the Baroque era, musicians were supposed to know the style, so when given a piece of music which was just the bare bones, they would know what to do with it - when, where and with what to ornament it etc etc etc. The situation for experienced musicians playing traditional music is the same - the dots give the basic melody, you are supposed to know how to interpret it in the appropriate style.

As to why would anyone want to learn from dots - because there is a wealth of music out there in 18th and 19th century musicians manuscript tune books and early printed sources which is not played now - at least there is for Scottish and English music, I’m sure there must be for Irish music as well.

All this is a world away from beginners listening to nothing and playing the notes and only the notes from a tune book and thinking that’s how the tune goes or some classicially trained person who also listens to nothing and thinks playing the dots with the full horror of their classical technique is doing us a favour.

Posted by .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I think the key word here is *Learning*

I’ve played at a few Fiddle rallies in my time…..a peculiar Scottish custom and one which is probably frowned upon by most serious sessioners (Even the Scots) here. However, I quite enjoy it…..along with but not to the exclusion of everything else…and it can be a good way of getting introduced to new tunes.
So, I quite often get sent a batch of sheet music which I have to learn before a concert. Many of these tunes will be unfamiliar and I have to use "the dots". Of course, I don’t *learn* them as such but I have to be able to read and play them through at speed. So, this takes a bit of practice.

Now, I’ll often seek out recordings and listen to the tunes while I do this. Sometimes, I’ll already have them(It’s amazing what I’ve got) or there might be MP3s etc online. However, there will be times when I’ll just have to rely on the written music.

Generally, this is quite adequate for the purpose as in these fiddle orchestras you have to play what is "on the paper" or are expected to ,, at least. 🙂
However, if a tune "sticks" or I like it enough to include in my own repertoire I will eventually adapt it into a more traditional or, at least, my own style. I’d also wish to check out other players and recordings and hear how it is played in sessions, if at all.

So, *learning* a tune just from the dots isn’t really posible. You also have to hear it or have experience and knowledge of traditional tunes in general.
Of course, you can easily play the tune "as written" but that’s not the same thing.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I liken the dots to a rough sketch, its up to us to fill out the picture, the better the artist, the better the finished picture.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I think c.g. hit the nail on the head in his bit about Baroque musicians having to know the styles first and then being able to apply this to written music which is purely the "bare bones". My own view (at the risk of antagonising the anti dot fraternity) is that this is the very best approach. If you rely solely on the aural approach it’s more difficult to put your own stamp on the feel of the tune as you’re more likely to reproduce it as played - tape recorder style!

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Taking it for granted that you shouldn’t learn this music from notation alone, I love acquiring tunes that I’ve never heard. There are so many fantastic reels, for instance, in Ceol Rince parts 4 and 5. If you get familiar with the collections you’ll realise that a lot of CD-producing players are at the same thing.

The biggest problem then is persuading everyone else to play them!

Jim

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

<<<I’m afraid I’m guilty of assuming that the poster of that thread isn’t completely familiar with the music yet. If they were, then they’d almost certainly know Lady Anne Montgomery already - it’s a very common session tune.>>>

While it appears that it’s on some of the recordings I own, I certainly don’t know it. It’s definitely not common where I live.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I would agree with cg and Bannerman, I frequently learn tunes I have never heard from the dots, once memorized my own style would take over as regards adding ornaments, variations, my own style of bowing, etc. I also learn tunes by ear, and I think the important thing is to have listened to lots of ITM so that when learning from dots you can play in an appropriate style, I know from my own experience that this can take time for a classically trained player, (I had classical lessons years ago, but have been playing and listening to ITM for over 30 years now) . Many old tunes would have been lost for ever if they had not been written down by O’Neill, Canon Goodman, and others, to be revived by those who can read music.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

If you take a tune from the dots alone I wouldn’t say that you are "learning" it. It’s not possible, there simply isn’t enough information there. What a good player can do, however, is to "make" a tune from the dots.

It’s the same when you try to "learn" a tune from an awful player. There’s just not enough information. You can "make" a tune out of it though

Posted .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Nice one michael. It’s all about "making" music isn’t it?
A human’s DNA is not the real human. A cake recipe is not the actual cake you can eat. All of these are just sets of instructions for making the real thing.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I agree - I don’t consider a tune learned when I just know the notes.- the second stage is making the tune my own.
If I learn a tune from dots, without having heard it, at least the way I play it isn’t influenced by someone else’s interpretation.
Sometimes you know which recording of a tune a player has learnt a tune from by the way they play it.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

ehhhhh… i ALWAYS learn tunes by dots/ABC even without ever hearing them!!!! you find notes..try the tune - easy to do once you know the tempo of a jig/reel or watever type of tune you’re learning, and if you like the sound of it, then learn it. also, without ever hearing it being played first , it’s easier to put your own stamp/style on the tune.
i will admit though, its far easier to learn a tune if you have a recording of it.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

That’s a great analogy by c.g. and it reminds me of the "language" analogy.

Irish music is a form of language that is particular. It has its own sounds, language rules, etc. Someone reading off the dots without any knowledge or feel of how the language is used or sounds, etc. is going to sound funny playing the dots, much like someone attempting to speak a foreign language without any knowledge or feeling of the nuances.

Conversely, you would think that one well versed enough in the "language" should be able to interpret the dots into music, as Mr. llig says above, but again, they’re not just using the dots, they are drawing on their knowledge, familiarity and skill with the "language" already to take the "words" off the page and make it sound like it was "spoken" by a native speaker.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I’m not specifically dissing anyone here, but there is a kind of arrogance in wanting to put your own spin on tunes. I’m just not comfortable with the notion that it’s better not to have the influence of others on your settings of tunes.

"Sometimes you know which recording of a tune a player has learnt a tune from by the way they play it." Yes. but that’s only bad unimaginative players. And only a problem of learning tunes off recordings. A tune played only three times through in one mood on one day is better to learn off than a piece of paper, but it suffers the same inherent lack of information and the same need to fill in the gaps. A good player is able to do this, a bad player doesn’t bother, and an intermediate player tries but is not up to it.

Posted .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I think thats the way it should be………hand me down music (spirit and all) 🙂


Slán

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Good, intermediate, and bad. I hate those categories. Like there is nothing "good" about your playing until you can play at an advanced level. And "bad" can apply to anyone from the player who doesn’t care to the player who just started learning, but it’s "bad" all the same.

Sorry, Michael. You just got on a particular nerve this morning.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

As I’ve stated before, I am learning about ITM, playing in a local session just started by a former student of mine. I was a "classical" violinist for most of my musical life. I learned to read notes when I learned to read words; it’s always been a part of my life and language.
Because of my location (middle of Wyoming), there are some regional old-time styles around here being played, but there has not been much in the way of ITM. I’ve collected books of tunes, reading the notes because of my ease in doing so, and because of the cultural isolation one experiences "way out west." (Hundres of miles from anywhere, very expensive to spend time in Denver, as well as bad roads much of the winter)
That said: the tunes I’m learning now, and want to learn now, are those that I am hearing, live and from a recording that was given to me. The tunes that I’m just reading are not sticking in my head, are not the tunes I’m humming to myself. My fingers are learning the tunes in my head faster than the tunes on the page.
yes, I hear the big "duh" resonating throughout the world….

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Kennedy lets face it we are all sh*tE(bad) players and great artists at some point n our lives—-

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

You have a point there, Enigma…

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

This has been an interesting discussion that has developed while I was sleeping… That’ll teach me to post a thread right before I go to sleep 😉

I agree wholeheartedly with llig on this one. If you "learn" a tune by reading the dots or ABC, you’re dealing with the bones of the tune. The more experienced you are, the better you can "flesh out" the tune just from knowing its basic shape.

The same applies for listening to a particular recording of a tune. It may be more fleshed out by the person (or people) playing it than the dots alone would provide, but it’s still only a snapshot. It’s like trying to get to know a person simply through a photograph of them, instead of meeting them in person. More than one recording of a tune can help you a lot, but there’s still no substitute for *playing* the tune a bunch to get to know it…

So how many of you prowl the tune section, checking out new tunes as they’re posted on this site, and learn the occasional tune that catches your fancy, even though you may never have heard it played?

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Never done it. Anytime I’ve gone to the dots here or anywhere it’s because I need a little help learning something played at a session I go to or something I have a recording of already.

I mean, that’s what you all tell us to do, right? 🙂

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I’m glad I never saw Dow’s response to my question about Lady Ann Montgomery.

Yes, I learn a lot of tunes from the sheet music without already knowing them by heart. This is because I am new to the music. I listen to tons of it all the time, however I rarely know which one is which by name when I’m listening.

And for those who think listening and knowing tunes by heart is all it takes, let me tell you, if listening was enough, I’d be a rock and roll guitar player by now.

I happen to know that they like to play Lady Ann Montgomery at our session. However, like everything that is played at our session, it is much too fast for me. I can hardly be expected to memorize it listening to 3 hours of tunes at the session. It evaporates into the mix by the end of the evening.

But I want to learn how it goes so I will recognize it next time, and if I practice enough, perhaps I can even play along. At that point, I figure I will be ready to actually learn it.

You who have been doing this for 20 years have no idea what it’s like to start at the beginning. The dots help a lot.

However, lots of the dots I’ve downloaded from this site seem poorly written or poorly rendered. Mostly my question was in reference not to that particular tune, but kind of about the tunes in general, with that one as an example. What’s up with the dots not lining up with the lines or not rendering as half notes or whatever they are supposed to be? I was not sure if this was an error of the software or of the person who entered the tune. I had of course been playing the tune as it made sense aurally. I was just curious what the error was.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

The dots on the page, for traditional music, are a sketch, an outline, the ingredients not the recipe, a reminder of how the tune goes, a starting point. What makes the tune live is the knowledge brought to it by the musician, the understanding of the style, the context and the culture. Dots are a great help when you can’t disentangle what you’ve heard (sbhikes, I remember my early struggles really well and yes, I needed all the help I could get.) The one thing you CANNOT do is play the dots as written on the page and think the result is I (or S or E or W) TM, anymore than learning a list of words in a foreign language will make you fluent in it. You have to learn how to put them together in the way native speakers of that language do.

Posted by .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Hi sbhikes - you’ll find a lot of different versions, some good, some incomplete or not reading properly in ABC Navigator. If you use the JC tune finder:
http://jc.tzo.net/~jc/cgi/abc/tunefind?P=lady+anne+montgomery&find=FIND&m=title&W=wide&limit=1000&thresh=5

you’ll see loads of versions and if you hover your mouse over the "get" link you’ll see the source and can find out whether it is just that tune, or in an archive (it will show the Session file of that tune). This is a good way of finding archives - one of the links for the tune is http://gradcenter.marlboro.edu/~mahoney/abc/abc/Reels.abc so that’s obviously got other tunes with it (I haven’t checked to see if this is a good version). If the file has a .txt file type you need to change this to .abc for it to open in ABC Navigator. So you can save a whole load of versions of the tune and try them out to find the one nearest to what you’re looking for. I had to play from dots first before I could get up to speed and start learning tunes at sessions or from recordings- it would have just been a blur of notes a couple of years ago.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Yes, I understand that, c.g.

Apparently from feedback I have gotten from clips I’ve posted, the rhythm and lilt are not an issue with me. Nobody has ever told me to go home at the session, either.

I never could read music all that well anyway. It’s mostly an outline and a reminder. I usually start out with an unfamiliar tune playing the dots with all the soullessness that is present in the sheet music. Then I start to hear the tune that is in it and I add the missing parts. The "feeling" is how I think of it.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

That file does have a good version in it. This is one tune that I actually did learn by ear as it’s so regularly played

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

sbhikes, you are new to the music. You must stop looking at the dots and learn by ear. I’m sorry but it’s true. You might think the dots are helping you but they’re not. They’re only helping you not listen. If the music is too fast for you to pick up the notes by ear then you’re not ready to play in that session yet. Take a recording device to the session and record the tunes. Listen to that recording lots. Listen to other recordings of the same tune lots. Listen till you can sing along to that tune in your head. Listen till you can hear the detail of what the musicians are playing. Then get your instrument and replicate it as best you can. Whatever you do, don’t learn a tune off the dots and then think you can play along at that session. Learn how to play the music first. Please?

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

In other words, if the music played at that session is too fast for you to pick up by ear, then using the dots to help you "hear" it is the wrong way to go about it. You have to become familiar with it aurally, enough so that the music *isn’t* too fast for you to pick up by ear.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I will learn a new tune from any source I can, including sheet music (ABCs doesn’t count as a source I can use, because I haven’t ever gotten the knack). I have a few tunes I have gotten originally from sheet music. Although, most tunes I also hear somewhere along the way, and I usually tweak the way I play it once I hear it. The method that works best for me is a combination of hearing and then consultation with sheet music to make sure I am not fluffing through any of the trickier parts of the tune.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

sbhikes, I don’t think anyone on this site would say that "listening and knowing tunes by heart" is all it takes. But listening is a major skill that a lot of people neglect early on in the process… And I would also recommend that you get a portable recording device of some sort, that would allow you to record tunes in your local sessions (with the other players’ permission, of course). This can help you with the fact that things are going by too fast, and help you learn the particular settings that your local folks play of a particular tune.

When I first started playing this music, I used to get frustrated that the ABC settings that I could find weren’t the same as what got played when I heard tunes in sessions or on recordings. I used to have a notion of there being a "definitive setting" for a tune. As I have grown as a player, I have gotten used to the fact that this isn’t the case, and I actually enjoy it now. All of the different settings of a tune that you might find are just part of the "fleshing out" of a tune that I mentioned before.

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Dow is a great player and one of this site’s chief transcribers of tunes, but, sorry, you’ve got to learn how to play them before you’re allowed to look at them. The path to enlightenment never was an easy one!

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Hey sbhikes, we do know what it is like starting at the beginning…..everyone here started at some stage!
Trying to puzzle out the cork hornpipe or something!

I dont recognize lady Anne…its a Scottish tune ,right, perhaps its played in Australian sessions. But it certainly doesnt seem like a ITM standard.

>>So how many of you prowl the tune section, checking out new tunes as they’re posted on this site, and learn the occasional tune that catches your fancy, even though you may never have heard it played?<,

I would occasionally wander through looking for something of interest,but i generally have enough’ on my plate’ already!
I have learnt many tunes from the dots. I have hardly ever learnt a tune from a CD, I learnt a lot of tunes bar by bar from the people I’ve played with over the years.
I would normally already have the tune in my head , , from listening. Once it is there it is simply a matter of picking it out on an instrument.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

sbhikes,
"What’s up with the dots not lining up with the lines or not rendering as half notes or whatever they are supposed to be?"

Have a look at this comment and the subsequent ones. It may help. https://thesession.org/tunes/59#comment324525

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Learning a tune using only sheet music is like trying to learn about the human body by only looking at a skeleton. In order to add the meat and fleshy parts, I like to listen to as many recordings and versions as I can find. Hopefully when I am ready, I can see/hear/play the tune with a body like Raquel Welsh had in the early 70’s va-va-voom.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Lady Anne Montgomery is a bog standard tune in the Irish repertoire.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

>>> If the music is too fast for you to pick up the notes by ear then you’re not ready to play in that session yet.

Interesting thought, Dow. There is an element of truth to that, but I was invited into sessions long before I was at point to be able to play at the skill level of the session. And I think it’s important to get out and try doing it before you feel ready. Getting dragged along by better players is something that greatly improves my playing!

So, while I would agree that listening is something that new players *need* to learn how to do, and that the dots can be detrimental, I wouldn’t generally try to discourage people from participating in sessions that are beyond their skill level… For me, that just nurtured the desire to listen and learn.

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

In defense of sheet music, there are some great tunes out there that don’t get recorded, nor played in my neck of the woods. Sometimes I play through sheet music books just to find those gems. One that is a favorite of my wife and I is the jig Snug in A Blanket, which I don’t think I have ever heard anyone play, and my life would be poorer if I had missed it. (it was years after I learned it that I finally heard it, on a Caperceili (sp?) album I think).

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Hmmm. In sessions that are beyond my skill level, I’m more than happy not to try and play. I’d rather just record it so that I could listen to it later and learn from it. That’s just me though…

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

>>Lady Anne Montgomery is a bog standard tune in the Irish repertoire<<
Maybe so, but i don’t recognize it,after 25years of going to sessions, In which region are you referring to? Perhaps in Clare?
And i doubt anyone has ‘complete familiarity’ with ITM, Thats an awful lot of tunes! Certainly not me! You Dow?

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

We play a lot of Scottish tunes at our session. I think we’ve got a native Scottish fiddler in our membership.

Sorry Dow. That’s not how it is at my session. They have not told me to go home. In fact they told me to keep coming and bring them new tunes. I think I will listen to them.

And as I said, if listening were enough I’d be able to play all the Eagles’ songs. I’d be able to sing them and play them on guitar. 30-some-odd years of listening and I still can’t play the guitar and I sure can’t sing well enough to join the band. So what am I to do? Stay home and sing in the shower the rest of my life?

Also, if I don’t go to the session I will never learn how to play the music. I’ll never learn all the little secret etiquette issues you all moan about endlessly. I’ll just whack away at my instrument all by myself while the people at the session die of old age.

So if I don’t go to the session and play with other people, I can’t learn. But you say I can’t learn until I stay home for 20 years practicing tunes I hear in my head? I’ll bet most of you started attending sessions before you were expert players. That’s all I’m doing, too.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Participating in a session can include not trying to play. But there’s a difference between being an experienced player and being new at it…

Did you really never play in a session that was beyond your skill level when you were first starting, Dow? I can’t imagine how I would have ever gotten to where I am now without doing that!

And Al, it wasn’t my intention to start yet another "merits of sheet music" thread. I think the general consensus here has been that sheet music can be useful, especially to an experienced player. I just find it interesting that people might try to learn tunes *strictly* from dots, because I never do it (with that one exception).

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

A fluent reader with a comprehensive knowledge of the idiom can learn tunes from the dots with ease.
Its that simple.
Its not molecular physics or brain surgery! I certainly wouldnt want a brain surgeon operating on me however many books he’d read unless he had been taught very well 🙂
though saying that, how do brain surgeons practice?

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

sbhikes, while I understand where you’re coming from, don’t dismiss Dow’s suggestion that you must learn to listen!

Listening is a skill that you can practice (which seems like a foreign concept to some people). Practice listening to recordings to the point that you can pick out specific notes. Practice listening at your session. Pick a single tune that gets played regularly. Listen to it as carefully as you can, and try to learn the shape of the tune, as well as figuring out specific notes that are being played. Learn to recognize the difference between a C natural and a C sharp, for instance… When the set is done, ask what the tune was if you don’t know. Start by concentrating on a single tune that way. Then go see if you can find recordings of that tune, and listen to those. See if you can figure out what might be different in the recording from what gets played at your session. Try doing all of this without referring to any written form of the music. Doing this kind of stuff as a bit of a game or challenge can really help you learn how to listen. The more you practice listening, the better you get at it…

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

jig, I think that a fluent reader can easily learn the basics of a tune from the dots… But actually *learning* the tune, and becoming familiar enough with it to be able to express it well can only really come from playing it… The more experienced you are, the quicker you’ll be able to do that. The thing is, you wouldn’t want the brain surgeon to operate unless he had done that specific operation a bunch of times before!

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Pete, Sbhikes et al,

I think the attitude of some of the older hands on this site is "Don’t do what I do(or used to do) but what I tell you!" 🙂

Fair enough, it’s all good advice eg Listen, listen, listen….Learn by ear not from dots…..Don’t noodle……Learn from playing with others rather than recordings….learn tunes at speed rather than at slow sessions etc etc.

However, I’m inclined to suspect that the same people didn’t necessarily behave this way when they were learning or as beginners but have come around to this view over the years possibly through trial and error, committing a few faux pas and indiscretions on the way.

Did everyone of them just arrive at a session…sat down and listened to the tunes at break neck speed every week until they just "sunk in"…then they just got on with playing same?
Surely the regular musicians would have wanted their seats?

Did they *never* try to learn new tunes on their own from listening to recordings, from the dots, private tuition or *slowly* either at slow sessions, transcribed recordings, from friends or whatever?
Have they always existed in this ideal world they describe?

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Excuse me, sbhikes, I NEVER said you shouldn’t go to the session.

And sorry jig, but Lady Anne Montgomery is a bog standard tune in the Irish repertoire. I dunno what you’ve been doing for 25 years, but I’d expect any Irish musician coming over to Oz from Ireland to know that tune. Ask around at some sessions in Ireland. I’m sure you’ll find that people know it, doesn’t matter whether they’re young funky teenagers or 80 year old wrinklies. It’s one of the old "warhorses" like the Tarbolton and Musical Priest and all those sorts of tunes. It’s the sort of tune you’d find in crappy tunebooks for beginners. In fact I believe it’s in Mally’s 100 Irish session tunes or one of those ones.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

"If the music is too fast for you to pick up the notes by ear then you’re not ready to play in that session yet"

How about "if you can’t play the tunes then you’re not ready to play in that session yet"?

There’s a big difference. I can’t agree with having to learn a tune by ear at speed, and only that way, never slowing it down, never referring to music for tricky bits. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to work on a tune over time from any and every available resource. I’m sure Dow will brand me a know-nothing newbie for saying so, but I don’t care. I listen to this stuff ALL the time, in both recorded and live formats, and learn primarily by ear. I take lessons once a week. My teacher uses sheet music (usually stuff that I print and bring in with me) as one of the tools he uses to help me learn it. Very often we’ll have discussions over whether and how to deviate from what’s on the page, and sometimes we ignore it altogether and just play. Never once have I been told that I shouldn’t try to play in a session if I couldn’t learn the tunes by ear there.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Johnny J, that’s exactly what I was thinking…

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

"Did you really never play in a session that was beyond your skill level when you were first starting, Dow? I can’t imagine how I would have ever gotten to where I am now without doing that!"

Yes, and I wish I hadn’t. I would have spoilt it for the other musicians. It took a lot of backstabbing and bitching from other musicians for me to see the error of my ways. That’s what made me decide to go away and spend time at home learning how to play properly. There are easier ways than that though. I just wish I’d known earlier - I could have avoided a lot of sh1t and upset by just going and spending time recording.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

"However, I’m inclined to suspect that the same people didn’t necessarily behave this way when they were learning or as beginners but have come around to this view over the years possibly through trial and error, committing a few faux pas and indiscretions on the way."

Bless you Johnny J. I’ll be the 1st to admit that you’re right in my case.

Maybe it’s something that people *have* to go through. I dunno. In retrospect I can see ways of learning the music that would have avoided the pitfalls, and I’d like to think that you *don’t* have to make an idiot of yourself in sessions to improve your playing. But maybe you just do. A bit like in order to be good at doing hillstarts, you have to have experienced stalling while holding it on the clutch so you know where that biting point is. Or something. Hmm…

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Being out of your depth is a harsh but effective way of learning how to swim (if you don’t go under!)

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Well, I’m going to the session tonight. I’ll probably sit out 95% of the tunes as I usually do.

At a certain point in the evening they will play them so fast I will not even be able to hear them anymore. At that point I will go home.

But before then, they’ll likely play a few tunes I’ve been practicing, and play them at a speed I’m not capable of, but I will try to push myself to keep up as much as I can.

Some time during the evening they’ll play something really great and I’ll try to get the name of the tune so I can look it up in the sheet music and practice during the rest of the next two weeks.

Perhaps if I arrive early they’ll ask me what I do know how to play and they’ll play with me at my speed, at which point I’ll probably completely forget everything I know and not even be able to play the tunes I mastered during the past two weeks.

That’s what the session is like for me. Happens 6 hours a month.

The rest of the month, I learn tunes from the dots after I listen to tunes during my work day. I practice during my lunch hour as well.

If I’m lucky, I’ll find a really good one just browsing the sheet music I have, I’ll play it a few times, and it’ll get stuck in my head. Then I will sing it as I ride my bicycle or motorcycle to and from work. Then I’ll play it to death hoping I can master it before the next session.

Then, repeat this whole post.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Yeah, I agree. But the difference there is that you can learn to swim like that on your own. Even your splashing about and screaming as you half-drown isn’t going to affect what the other people in the pool are doing. By learning to swim, you are not, for example, annoying the professional divers at the deep end by grabbing their legs as they jump.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

"At a certain point in the evening they will play them so fast I will not even be able to hear them anymore. At that point I will go home."

That’s where you’re wrong. If you can’t hear, it’s probably because you’ve switched off. It’s at this point of the night that you should switch yourself on and really challenge yourself. Listen as closely as you can to their fast playing. Record it using an MD player or something. Try and carry some snippets of their fast tunes home with you at the end of the night in your head. Do this every time you go to the session.

I’m trying to help here, really I am. You shouldn’t give me such a hard time 🙁

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Good lord, you leave this board for a few hours and look what happens.

Anyway, I just found this thread, so if I may address the initial post, with regards to learning tunes without having heard them…My teacher teaches me tunes by ear, and then records them on a tape for me to practice. He also gives me sheet music, which I tend to glance at briefly here and there, but the recording (along with CDs I have at home) is my primary source during the initial learning process. A few weeks ago, though, we only got through the A part of a tune during my lesson, and my teacher didn’t record the tune for me, so I went home and reconstructed the B part of my own. It took me a few tries to "make sense" of the B part - I didn’t have a notion of beat and swing and lift going in, so it sounded very disjointed at first - but at some point, something just clicked and it came together. I’m sure I’d heard the tune at *some* point previously, but it definitely wasn’t one that I listened to regularly. A week later at my lesson, my teacher, who had forgotten that he hadn’t recorded this tune, didn’t make any comments indicating that I’d missed the point of the B part, as it were.

In any case, I favour learning by ear - I wouldn’t play this music if I didn’t like listening to it - but learning exclusively from sheet music here and there is a nice experiment, to see what sort of life you can breathe into a written, approximate, representation of a tune.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Al has summed up my technique better than I could:

"…a combination of hearing and then consultation with sheet music to make sure I am not fluffing through any of the trickier parts of the tune."

BAM! That’s the ticket. I often find myself saying “I got the whole flippin’ thing except what the heck does that one diddlee right there in the B part do? That is driving me nuts!”

…and then half the time whoever I’ve heard play the tune is actually playing it the way I’m hearing it and not the way the dots look anyway, so…  [shrug]

Also, “…getting dragged by better players…” per Rev Pete’s comment is spot on. I found it a HUGE help to get dragged around. To avoid confusion, this isn’t getting dragged around so that you sound like garbage, or making an idiot out of yourself, this is done while still maintaining proper “noodling” and other session etiquettes.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Taking a recording device along is a good idea but they (At least portable machines) weren’t as readily available when many of us started off. I have done this over the years though.
However, that’s not how the "older guys" did it originally although even many of them do so now. You’ll often see Cathal McConnell standing at the edge of a session with a little walkman or dictaphone seeking out new tunes. If he can do it, anyone can.

Of course, this is only a recording too. the musicians might play a tune differently next week and almost certainly will at another session. So, it should be treated with the same caution as a commercial recording surely?

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Well, I will make sure I never show up at Dow’s sessions since I won’t pass muster (or is it mustard, as in this board) but I’m happy they’re ok with me at my session, pathetic as I am. At least I can keep to the rhythm which is more than a lot of play-by-ear-hear-me-do-all-the-fancy-rolls players can say.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

It’s all too easy just to pass me off as elitist, and someone who picks on beginners. I guess it’ll score you brownie points here in the discussions. ::shrug::

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I don’t think Dow’s being elitist - he’s trying to be helpful. For me though, learning the tunes at home and not joining in at the session wouldn’t have created the sense of danger, the adrenalin rush, the embarrassment, the overwhelming "please, floor, open up and let me disappear into the abyss" feeling that makes you go away and work even harder at trying to be at least better than totally hopeless. Also the embarrassment of occasionally being one of the few tune players who have turned up, and finding all the tunes you are forced to expose in public are total train wrecks. My playing was a bit like that when Dow visited our session a couple of years ago. His playing was a pleasure to hear and saved that particular evening from disaster!

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Rubbish Richard, I really enjoyed your playing. And I loved that session - it was a nice cosy little gathering! The other one at the worker’s club was incredibly welcoming too. I have fond memories of those occasions.

Anyway yeah, about what you said about that "please, floor, open up and let me disappear into the abyss", lol @ that, and also the train wreck thing… yeah, maybe a musician has to have that to make themselves work harder.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Believe it or not, even I saved a session from total disaster.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

"learning the tunes at home and not joining in at the session "

I can’t understand why it has to be a case of "either or".
Of course, go to the sessions and learn how the tunes are played there…I hesitate to say "the proper way"…but there’s nothing wrong with checking out new tunes at home by whatever means, eg the dots, abcs, from sites like these, off recordings or whatever. You’ll at least have some familiarity with them and when(if) they eventually crop up in a session you’ll have a head start in getting to grips with them in that environment. Of course, you’ll have to adapt and then the real learning begins.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

What, by not going?

STOP, I’m JOKING!! 😉

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

that was for sbhikes.

Actually I’ll take it back, I regret it already hehe

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I’m with Johnny J again. In fact, I’d say it’s impossible to learn to play tunes at home as they are played at sessions. Even if you can play them at the requisite speed, you can’t tailor your playing to anyone else’s or learn to listen to other people’s playing at home. That must be done in a session.

I feel rather silly stating the obvious like that, but from some of these posts you’d think that you shouldn’t *ever* join a session until you know you will fit in easily. Which only the most advanced players can do.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Which only the most advanced players can do?? ::not getting it::

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Bad Dow, no biscuit! <sorry, channeling Z there…> 😉

It is probably true that a lot of things that the more experienced players did when they were starting are the same things that they rail against here. But I think they do that as a way of trying to save the newer players the pain of what they went through…

But you’re right, actually experiencing the pain is extremely useful and productive. It may drive some people away from the music, and those are probably the ones that shouldn’t be playing it. And in my case, it motivated me to get better as quickly as possible, because I hate sucking at anything I do!

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

>>And sorry jig, but Lady Anne Montgomery is a bog standard tune in the Irish repertoire. I dunno what you’ve been doing for 25 years,<<

Fair enough dow, ive probably played it hundreds of times then, it seems like one of those tunes i would pick up straight away.but not that id bother to actually ‘learn’.
I personally only learn tunes that really enthrall me, this one hasn’t passed muster, or id have asked the name, gone away and learnt it.

I think at this point its worth mentioning the obvious again, every session is different, If the session you go to doesnt cater for your level, start your own, a kitchin session perhaps.
Thats what people around here do when they are learning and cant get a seat in the pub sesh.

>>But the difference there is that you can learn to swim like that on your own. Even your splashing about and screaming as you half-drown isn’t going to affect what the other people in the pool are doing. By learning to swim, you are not, for example, annoying the professional divers at the deep end by grabbing their legs as they jump.<<
I like that bit🙂

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Dow, you said "…the difference there is that you can learn to swim like that on your own". Which I took to mean that people shouldn’t play in a session unless they can play the tunes the way everyone else is playing them—-fit in easily. Did I misunderstand?

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

"Believe it or not, even I saved a session from total disaster."

"What, by not going?"

No, by sharing a tune I learned from the sheet music here on this site when there was a lull and people were at a loss what to play next.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

sbhikes, don’t take Dow’s joke as anything other than a bit of slagging to lighten the mood!

His comment to the effect of "stop looking at the dots and learn by ear" is really an attempt to show less experienced players a productive path to becoming better. 🙂

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Bloody hell, what is it about Californians?!

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

You’re not helping here, Dow 😛

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Okay, I was in a hurry when I wrote that last post, so I’ll rephrase…this is how I interpret Dow’s philosophy of learning to play in sessions…listen to the tunes in the session, record them, listen and learn them at speed, and join in when you’ve finally learned to play them. Did I miss anything?

If I understood this correctly, that would mean that only the more advanced players would be able to join sessions, because less advanced players don’t yet have the ability to learn most tunes this way (polkas and jigs perhaps, reels, much less likely).

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Maybe Dow’s point was that only the most advanced players should be playing in the most advanced sessions 😏

If you’re out of your league, you probably shouldn’t be playing. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be there. And most sessions welcome newer players, and like to encourage them by playing some sets slower for the newer players, for instance.

But there is something to be said for working on the basics of playing on your own. Work on learning rolls, cuts, triplets, crans, etc on your own. Work on playing with a good rhythm, in time, and in tune on your own. If you *only* play in sessions, you’re doing your practicing potentially at someone else’s expense.

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Kennedy, there are many levels, At sessions i know, you are absolutely correct, beginners wouldn’t have a hope in hell of joining in.
At my students learner sessions youd be more than welcome im sure. Its up to you to judge whether you will fit in, and up to the session players whether they agree.
IF you are in the unenviable situation that there are no sessions where you fit in without bugging folk then there is only one remedy, focused practice at home.
Its not like im telling you to do something i havent spent years doing myself….
I can only say that i prefer to learn the bones of a tune at home, at my own pace, from the dots mostly in the last 10or so years.
I feel that learning by ear is an essential part of this tradition, but we cant become masters in one day.
Whatever works for you.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Haven’t been here in a while. Hello to everyone. I find myself still being slightly amazed with anyone trying to rush into playing music. I guess there are those who can pick up an instrument and play confidently and reasonably well first out of the gate. For us “lesser” players, it takes time. Lessons, listening, practice and more practice, on our own. After spending the first couple of years learning with sheet music and listening to the recordings both from my teacher & the commercial discs, I finally put the sheet music away, cold turkey. Learning by ear forces me to really listen, hearing not just the notes, but recognizing phrases. The tunes are starting to feel natural in my hands. It took a couple of months, but I finally was able to learn a tune on my own by listening to the recording several times (recorded lesson, am still taking lessons). I think I surprised my teacher, I certainly surprised myself. I find myself learning the tunes faster, retaining them better and feel more confident.

Perhaps in the future I will be able to look at the sheet music and pick up the tune. I know it can be done, my teacher has certainly done this, and rather well too.

“At least I can keep to the rhythm which is more than a lot of play-by-ear-hear-me-do-all-the-fancy-rolls players can say”. I think both are equally important. The "fancy" rolls are part of the tune, not something added on to impress. Perhaps more listening is needed to hear that.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Right Pete, you got what I meant - that’s it exactly: I’m not saying you can’t go and play in sessions. Kennedy, you’re determined to misunderstand me just because you don’t like me and you have some personal problem with me. That’s fine, I don’t care, whatever, but for the moment let’s try and get past that, eh?

There are many different types of session. Find one that fits your level and join in there. Don’t be messing up sessions with musos who are playing at a higher level. By all means go to their sessions, but go there to listen and learn, and if possible, record.

So let’s be absolutely clear here what I mean:

If you are a beginner, then ideally you should do the following:

Sesh at your level —— go and play on the tunes you know
Sesh at a higher level —— go and listen, learn, record

Is that clear now?

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Everyone takes their own path to learning this music.

As a contrast to DebWah, I don’t really read music, and although I can read ABC well enough to learn a basic tune from it, I don’t generally do that. I have taken lessons from better players, but don’t have a "teacher", per se. So I haven’t learned anything from sheet music, and pretty much all of my tunes were learned by ear, whether it be from the tune learning session that I "grew up" in (and now run), or from sessions I attended, or from recordings.

I don’t feel like I "rushed into" playing music. My (now ex) wife is an Irish fiddler, and so going to sessions was natural, and I was doing it "before I was ready". Fortunately, everyone I played with back then was extremely encouraging, and I practiced a lot, and progressed fairly rapidly (see my aforementioned comment about not liking to suck at anything I do…)

In our tune learning session, we don’t allow dots to be used while you’re learning or playing tunes. And people that come to that session that were "paper trained" have a hard time picking up new tunes and the general feel of the music until we get them weaned off of their crutch.

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Dow said way back: "People don’t realize you can’t really learn to play the music from the dots."

There is a difference between learning a tune and learning the music. To answer your question Pete:
Yes, an experienced musician can learn a tune by the dots. I don’t think a beginner can learn how to play the music through "paper training". Following that, to run with the big dogs, you’ve got to lift your leg.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Let’s suppose a good player can learn tunes well from just the ABCs. Yet given that, in most circumstances would you really bother?

Right now I have the melodies to about 25 unlearned tunes banging around in my head. I’d probably prefer to mess with these rather than tap a new source of tunes I’ve never heard before because 1) i’m already inspired by the ones in my head and 2) i’m getting to a point where it’s easier and more enjoyable this way than from reading dots on a page. And I’m starting to realize that by the time I learn these, they’ll have been replaced by 50 more incessant tunes waiting to be translated from the musicbox in my head into the muscle patterns of my fingers. It;s a sort of psychosis.

So I think maybe the argument from the old timers here isn’t just that it’s "impossible" to learn a tune properly from the dots, but that it’s not the most enjoyable or efficient way—that you don’t really "Get It" until you feel natural doing this music by ear and at that point you wouldn’t need to fall back on the dots regularly anyway.

Posted .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

>>The "fancy" rolls are part of the tune, not something added on to impress. Perhaps more listening is needed to hear that. <<
I know this has all been said before but i just feel that this is one of the biggest mistakes a beginner can make. Learning tunes with ornaments.I know Llig has an opposing view. and its quite likely that at Lligs level, on his instrument, he is correct.

However, untill you can play the ‘bones’ of the tune. at full session speed, with no technical errors, with good rhythm, intonation and pronunciation, you are not ready to add the ornaments.
By all means practice the technical aspects of these ornaments daily, and when you can play a tune up to the above standard then add an ornament or two in places you feel work.
Apart from the most pressing reasons,to follow these guidelines, one of the drawbacks in learning a tune as someone else plays it, loaded with ornaments, is you may fail to appreciate the art in ornamenting. That it is a decision you make from familiarity with the tune where and how you ornament.
It is good practice to make every effort to vary both the ornament , the type and position. Not repeating yourself if you can avoid it. This adds freshness to the tune, it becomes unpredictable, alive.
I found it refreshing to hear a similar opinion on the TG4 link of clare fiddle styles. Too many notes, not enough space.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

My original question wasn’t really whether you CAN learn a tune from the dots, it was really more whether anybody really DOES learn tunes exclusively from the dots.

I am with you, silver bow, I have way too many tunes bouncing around in there that I have picked up on the fly in sessions to be worrying about searching out new tunes that I’ve never heard…

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Jig, I agree that learning the melody without the ornaments is easier for a beginner, but the ornaments are still part of the tune and need to be part of the learning process of both the tune and music. Even with the Clare fiddling, those fancy rolls are part of the music, maybe just not as "heavily" played as other styles.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I disagree, respectfully, DebWah. I don’t think of ornaments as being part of a tune - I think of them as being part of the music as a whole.

When you learn ornaments as part of a tune, you’re restricting yourself to only doing that ornament in that place in the tune. That can be a somewhat handy way to learn ornaments early on, but in the long run, you’re causing problems.

I used to not be able to play tunes I learned without the ornaments, because I would get "lost". That comes from learning kinesthetically, instead of learning how the tune goes. That’s a natural thing when you’re starting out. But if you limit yourself to that, you’re limiting your ability to progress. What if you want to do a different ornament in the same spot? Or if you want to do your rolls in a different way the next time through the tune?

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Onrnaments not part of a tune, but part of the music - I like that, and I know there are those that will disagree.

Worth a separate topic.

Posted by .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

They are a part of the music obviously, But its not the learning aspect i am referring to, but the playing ‘up to speed’. This is crucial, the tunes have a pace, where they were composed, likely enough. You need to be able to play them at or close to this pace, once you can do this, then add the ornaments.
A high level fiddler of 30yrs standing will play the tune with ornaments at any pace they choose, its not an issue. But how can anyone expect to be able to do this with 5 or 10 yrs under there belt, let alone 1 or 2? It is simply unrealistic. I hear plenty of beginning fiddlers who try to play a tune at half speed with ornaments, What is the point? you wont have a chance, they will sound terrible because they are trying to run before they can crawl.
They are only part of the music if you so choose, they are optional.Playing the tune simply, and well is not. It is required.
I am certain that this issue is one that trips up so many learners, they want to session but they are trying to do too much, consequently it all seems too fast. Its not too fast at all, its just that you are trying to add too much in, it does’nt fit.
If you can play a tunes bones, well and up to speed you will be welcome, for a start you will make the other players with their ornaments sound better. The ear can compare the tune with and with out ornament.
We need sour to understand sweet. we need slow to understand fast. We need simple to understand complex.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I like that too - "part of the music as a whole". llig’ll be rolling his eyes reading this - I’m sure he’s said that almost word for word in past threads. But yeah, it’s worth reiterating.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Pete, I guess I’m not making myself really clear and agree with you. Not "a roll is played there, a triplet here" etc. But the ornaments are incorporated fluidly. Part of the music yes, and thus incorporated into the tune and "becomes one with it". You know, Zen like. 🙂

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Gotcha, DebWah 🙂

Geez Dow, now you’re telling me I am starting to sound like llig? Oh man! 😛

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

….sorry, to get back on track[ a bit]
Its funny i was just chatting with an old friend of mine we were discussing some old LP recordings of Shetland fiddlers he has and we both agreed that one of the identifiable characteristics of older players is their individual style and that this is a result of relative musical isolation. They were able to develop their playing and style without being swamped by commercial recordings and arbitrary standards imposed by others.There wasn’t the competition to be ‘the best’, They didn’t feel obliged to try and impress, they were free to play as they chose.
Within the context of their local culture

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

As I have often suspected, Llig is the virtual identity of Martin Hayes. You should be honored Pete!

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

oh geez, you shouldn’t oughta said that, DebWah! <running for cover>

Interesting, jig. I think ornamentation and variation is what makes the great players unique. Musical isolation might have something to do with that, although, more likely, the isolation is inside their own heads - the way that they think about the music…

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Yeah, I know, I’m in for karmic smack-down. Developing individual styles happens with time and practice. Me, I’ve got a dogs breakfast style going on. But it’s Science Diet now, was Alpo.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

One of the most encouraging things I’ve learnt from this site over the last year or so is not to be in too much of a hurry- not to run before you can crawl as jig says..
3 years is no time at all in this art, and I’m proud to be improving gradually, thanks to lots of helpful advice from people here, and playing with individual friends.
When I feel I can hold my own in the rough-and-tumble of a real session (and contribute something), I’ll venture in, but until then, I’m happy to stick to the task.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

What makes them unique is their style, There is no doubt that the great players of old were rather more limited than us today in their exposure to others music. Whether this isolation was a formative factor in the development of their style is debatable.
Today the great players will have to make their own choices as to how they wish to play, and the development of their personal style, whether this is a conscious decision or unconscious is down to individual choice, And i suppose is influenced by their taste in listening music, In the old days this choice would not have been there.
Hmm not really on topic here, oh well never mind.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

it’s OK jig, it’s my thread… hijack away 😉

pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Wow, we got another topic touching on reading music and this time there’s actually more light than heat being generated (maybe a response to global warming?). Rev. Pete made a point that I’ve been thinking about just recently.

In going back to relearn a few tunes from the bell bottom days, I realized that I had originally learned some ornaments as a *fixed* part of the tune, so I started forcing myself to leave out the ornament and see what bubbles up naturally. It was first a little awkward, and then liberating and I was able to play the tune as something new, doing ornaments as they felt right, not as a rote recitation. I’m not sure if this implies that learning “bare bones” tunes from notation is a useful thing, but it makes me feel a little more open minded about it.

Except for a very few beginning classical guitar pieces, I don’t think I’ve ever learned a tune without first hearing it. I’ve imagined I could,and I’ve *tried* a few times, but it never felt right. If I ever did, I’d probably be reluctant to play it for anybody until I’d heard somebody’s traditional rendering of it, just to see if I’d misunderstood what the tune had to say. That’s probably just me being not wanting to come off as a dork. I think I had a point to make, but it escapes me now…

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

O.K. you lost me. What was the revelation?
This topic must be at least several years old.
Anyone know the 1st time it appeared on site …

Posted by .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I enjoy taking ornaments, notes, parts of phrases out , not all the time but to give a tune a fresh rendering. Somehow this can give the tune more room to breathe, more ‘air’. suspense, so when you bring these bits back in, you get a sense of completion, or resolution.
I also like to ‘dot’ phrases that would generally ,in the Irish tradition, be played straight.That is the Scottish influence for sure, but I’m happy with that.

That reminds me of a quote i cant source. yer man said he spent the first 10 years trying to put everything in, and the next 10 years taking it back out!

I liked Debwahs point about the ornaments not being ‘added on’, but part of the music.
I might suggest its a choice of the individual where they want to take the piece of music, the tune, how and where they ornament it, or not.
So in this way we get, i feel, some resolution between the two main camps here, the ‘ornaments are part of the tune’, view as exemplified by Llig, and the ornaments are to be ‘added’ on when the tune can be played up to speed position that i subscribe to.

That being that the ornaments are >>>incorporated fluidly. Part of the music yes, and thus incorporated into the tune and "becomes one with it". You know, Zen like. 🙂<<

So yes i think that this idea that the ornaments are a choice of direction in the music,is an interesting one that is worth some consideration.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Phew.
Some things that were said that made me sad:

"The method that works best for me is a combination of hearing and then consultation with sheet music to make sure I am not fluffing through any of the trickier parts of the tune."
… If you can’t hear the "tricky" parts, how will you know that the notes you take off the dots are right?

"At a certain point in the evening they will play them so fast I will not even be able to hear them anymore. At that point I will go home." … Good riddance

"There is a difference between learning a tune and learning the music."
… Feckin idiotic thing to say. The music IS the tunes.

"Until you can play the ‘bones’ of the tune. at full session speed, with no technical errors, with good rhythm, intonation and pronunciation, you are not ready to add the ornaments."
… Who would rather listen to a beginner ease their way into a tune at an easy slow pace and attempt the odd slow roll, cut etc. Or whack away at it full speed like a bloody machine gun, 8 notes to the bar and nothing else? Come on now.

"I don’t think of ornaments as being part of a tune - I think of them as being part of the music as a whole." Duh … the tunes ARE the music.

"Ornaments not part of a tune, but part of the music - I like that, and I know there are those that will disagree."
AAAAARRRRGHHH


And some things that were said that cheered me up:

"After spending the first couple of years learning with sheet music and listening to the recordings both from my teacher & the commercial discs, I finally put the sheet music away, cold turkey. Learning by ear forces me to really listen."

"One of the most encouraging things I’ve learnt is not to be in too much of a hurry"

Posted .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

You pour scorn on it, Michael, but it’s not unreasonable to suggest that tunes exist in an unornamented form. And that "the music" consists of those rudimentary tunes ornamented and varied according to local traditions.

No need for the sadness - its only language: one person’s definition of the word "tune" versus another’s.

Posted by .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Well you can call strings of notes off a page tunes if want. But it doesn’t help. I just don’t get why we all can’t agree that the music IS the tunes. It’s so straight forward and simple. It’s just no good saying: well, there are tunes, and to make them into music you add style and twiddley bits. It just doesn’t work like that.

Posted .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

That’s interesting that you interpret it that way Michael. I interpreted it very differently. I think that the distinction is "each tune" and "all the tunes". So ornaments are something you do with all the tunes - with the music as a whole in other words. But you don’t learn a tune with set ornaments for each part of it, like "you have to have a roll in this bar".

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I think there are parts in all of the tunes where you could say something like, this is where a slow roll goes. Not, this is where a slow roll could go. Sure, you don’t and shouldn’t have to play that slow roll every time, there’s plenty of other stuff to do aswell, including not putting anything in. But that merely means that you’ve replaced that bit where the slow roll goes.

Posted .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

My experience when playing tunes for set dancers (it is dance music, after all) is that thinking about ornamentation is not the highest on the list of priorities.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I just don’t think it’s helpful to draw a line somewhere where you think what is referred to as the basic tune ends, and the interpretation begins. The whole art form has such terrific fluidity and contradiction inherent.

There was a post somewhere likening the music to passing out photo-copied line drawings and the musician gets out his felt tips or crayons and makes them into works of art. I find this such an appalling and rigid concept. It denies what any decent player would do which is to start with a bottle of tippex.

Posted .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Trevor, if your mindset is that you have tunes and "ornaments", then I can understand you eschewing the "decoration" in favour of a plain mantle piece. But the music is not like a mantle piece with nick nacks on top to brighten it up. And neither is it like a plain mantle piece you attack with a delicate wood carvers chisel. The so called ornaments are both permanent AND temproary. They are solid and etherial.

Posted .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I never look at the mantle piece when poking the fire.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I think that from all the responses to this thread that this discussion gets to the essence of what it’s all about . For newcomers to this great experience all of this is very daunting and I hope that it will not send people scurring off to do other things with their life. Some of the comments here re learning tunes by ear and without sheets are the real nitty gritty hard reality of it all—and for ‘beginners’ , on their own without easy access to sessions, it’s a hard pill to swallow. However I’m not discouraged and am really enjoying it and am now playing at a local session and am looking forward to Ennis next week—‘total immersion’.I can’t think of much better ways of enjoying myself .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

>>I think there are parts in all of the tunes where you could say something like, this is where a slow roll goes. Not, this is where a slow roll could go. Sure, you don’t and shouldn’t have to play that slow roll every time, there’s plenty of other stuff to do aswell, including not putting anything in. But that merely means that you’ve replaced that bit where the slow roll goes.<<

Im sorry but this statement is completely at odds with the tradition of Irish music As I understand it.
While it seem’s to reflect the Scottish military pipe tradition.
Is it coincidental that the author resides in Scotland.?
It completely negates players of the banjo, for a start.

>>… Who would rather listen to a beginner ease their way into a tune at an easy slow pace and attempt the odd slow roll, cut etc. Or whack away at it full speed like a bloody machine gun, 8 notes to the bar and nothing else? Come on now.<<

This is dance music. It is possible to dance to a reel played at full speed without ornaments.It is not possible to dance to a stumbling overloaded attempt at a tune.

Untill you can play the tune , what on earth are you doing ornamenting it!
Im saying learn the tune. get familiar with it, before taking it in different directions through adding your personal touch with ‘ornaments’.

>>Feckin idiotic thing to say. The music IS the tunes.<<


The tune is just that , a tune.The music is how you play it. The tune is not music until it is played.

If the tune player stops but the rhythm continues is this not music? perhaps we are using the same words with different meanings?

>>ornaments are both permanent AND temproary. They are solid and etherial.,,
And this kind of double speak is supposed to make sense?

Let alone the music being full of contradictions, we have 4 word sentences that contradict themselves!

This is traditional dance music, for and by the people. It is not an esoteric sect which can only be entered by passing an entrance exam and undergoing quasi-religious rites!

The Rhythm is the most important factor, if people can dance to your playing, and they want to, then you can be sure you are on the right path.
The other, secondary aspects such as intonation, ornaments , although obviously important, are not the essence of ITM.

To suggest that someone playing a reel in reel time, with no ornaments whatsoever, is somehow not making music is arrogant to an extreme.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

https://thesession.org/tunes/59

Look at the number of recordings. Includes "Boys Of The Lough" and "Kilfenora Ceili Band", both recorded in the mid-1970s. Absolutely standard, even in Scotland.

Posted by .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

They don’t play slow rolls in scotland - but that’s an aside.

And one of the reasons the military pipe tradition in scotland is so strict is because of the tradition of writing it down. Or it could be the other way round. Either way, Irish music is moving in this direction, partly because of the increasing tradition of writing it down.

I don’t think a reel at any speed without rolls and stuff is "the" music. And if the tune player stops but the rhythm continues, you can still dance to it yes, but I wouldn’t say it is "the" music. There is a lot of emphasis on it being dance music, but if it’s played too fast or too slow to dance too, I’m of the opinion that it can still be "the" music.

And I’m sorry but someone playing a reel in reel time, with no ornaments whatsoever may well be playing some form of music or other, but it’s not "the" music. And if, as you correctly concluded, if it completely negates players of the banjo, then there we have it.

Posted .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I’ve seen you post before somewhere that you don’t think you can play the music on the banjo because you can’t roll properly. I don’t usually disagree with what you say, llig, but I’m definitely not with you on that one!

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

As I suggested in my first two posts in this thread today, I take a pragmatic approach to playing ornaments. If I’m in a band playing for set dancers it’s more important to concentrate on timing, rhythm, speed and making damn sure you don’t finish ahead of the dancers, than thinking about ornaments which won’t be noticed anyway. Playing in a session or on stage, or playing at home is a very different matter; I use ornaments.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

But Michael, "a reel at any speed with rolls and stuff" is still the TUNE, but not "the" MUSIC… That’s the distinction I was making by stating that ornaments are part of the music as a whole, not part of the tune. The music consists of the tunes, but they are not one and the same - that’s an oversimplification. The tunes are a collection of notes - the music is how you play those notes.

It is interesting where this thread went. banjoian is correct, there are a lot of really core ideas that have been discussed in this thread. Very interesting and enjoyable. There is a lot to be learned by listening to differing opinions on this website… 🙂

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I sometimes learn tunes I haven’t heard from dots or ABCs—most often "original" tunes posted here that haven’t been recorded yet. There’s simply no other way to try them out. Original tunes that fit reasonably well within the tradition idiom are easy enough to bring to life.

But:

(1) I’ve been playing this music for 30 years and understand how to interpret the dots; and
(2) I can hear the tune in my head from seeing the dots or ABCs (the difference between sight reading—which is redundant—and sight *hearing* from the page).

Just one answer to Pete’s initial query….

Posted .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Pete, I think llig is simply misunderstanding what you’re saying. He’s saying that they are one and the same, and that tunes are the music and not just a collection of notes. In a very simple, ideal world, he’d be correct, but what we as musicians use the word "tune" to refer to is a lot of different things in a kind of shorthand. The sheetmusic, for example, can be referred to as simply "the tune", but it isn’t really "the tune". The only thing that is the tune is the stuff you can hear with your ears. The sheetmusic is only a representation of the tune, right? But that doesn’t stop us using the word "tune" as a shorthand expression to mean "representation of the tune". It’s all just "tune". An illustration of this is the fact that we talk about "tunebook". Of course the things in black and white in that book aren’t really tunes because they’re things that can only be heard and not seen. But if we were to take such a strict stance and quibble over the language we’re using, then it makes things difficult, because if they’re not "tunes" in the book, then what are they? Would we have to say "Representation-of-tune book"? It all boils down to how you’re using language in the end.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

God I can’t believe I just wrote that. We do have some stupid discussions here don’t we? 🙂

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

It’s the same with the word "music". You say something like "where’s the music in that?" to mean something much more deep and meaningful than the "music" in the word "sheetmusic", for example. But for some reason I interpret the initial question of tune vs music as "tune = abstract concept of anything that can represent a tune" and "music = specifically the good stuff that makes sound waves that please us". Tune can equate to music. Tune can *not* equate to music. It depends on how you choose to define each at any one time.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I agree Mark, "Ceci n’est pas une pipe"

http://www.foucault.info/documents/img/notapipe/Magritte-pipe.jpg

ie, of course it’s not a pipe, it’s bloody painting.

But what I’m trying to express is that if we sit and think of how we define "the" music, it boils down to tunes. Not the craic, or the dancing, or the pub and the Guinness, or the cute tune names or all that etiquette nonsense. It’s simply the tunes. (and by that I mean the tunes as they are played)

Posted .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

OK Llig, but its ‘how’ they are played.I feel it is wider than you are suggesting.
I think that isolating one aspect of a craft and attempting to define that craft through this one aspect is a step too far.
There is more to ‘the music’ than the tunes.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I work hard at playing music.
I go to sessions for the tunes & the craic.
Sessions are best with both not one or the other.
Not misquoting you Michael. Just adding more comments.

Posted by .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

What more? What is there more to the music than the tunes?

Posted .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

CPT, I guess after 30 years of playing, you get bored and are always looking for new things to play? 😉

The point being that I have to have a reason to be interested in a tune enough to learn it… And very rarely would that ever be a tune I hadn’t heard before.

I guess that learning original tunes that people post on this site is maybe one reason to do that, although, I don’t generally do that. Back to silver bow’s point - there’s already too many durn tunes that I need to learn, I don’t need to go actively looking for others…

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I understand what you’re trying to say, llig… And I won’t try to argue the semantics of your conflicting logic anymore, I guess, because the argument is not important 🙂

Pete

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

>>What more? What is there more to the music than the tunes?<<
We all play the tunes, whatever our view of ornaments, its not the technical aspects that make one fiddler ‘better’ than another, its not the tunes, or the tone of the fiddle, or intonation, or any of this ,it is the ability of the player to communicate with others through their music.
It is the players ‘presance’, their style, their honesty, their love for the music. All these things are intangible aspects of the music. The connection between the musician, their music and the people involved, playing or listening.
The tunes are but one aspect of the music.The tunes are the vehicle for ‘the music’.
Although, as musicians, we might admire and emulate technically brilliant players, it doesn’t mean they are better, ok on a technical level, but music is much more than technique. There is Spirit and soul.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I just had one of those "what was I doing responding to this thread" moments, like I came as an alien from outer space out of the blue and was able to look at it all with a fresh eye. All I can say is -


you guys are kind of weird you only have 2 eyes each.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Q: What is there more to the music than the tunes?

A: "The ability of the player to communicate with others through their music." "the players ‘presence’,"

I’m afraid I really cannot disagree with this more. On a really basic and fundamental level I wish to vigourously fight my corner on this.

What you do with "the tunes" is, of course, up to you. But surely, one of the most basic things you really have to do with it is to please yourself. To be able to play for yourself. To NOT have a presence. To not have to comunicate your music, but to simply sit in your own kitchen and and play for yourself.

Posted .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Arrive bloody late in a conversation and you end up missing a good fight. I can’t pretend to have read all of this thread but I have read a lot of it and skimmed the whole thing. What follows now will be a bit like a stream of consciousness where I try to get in all my thoughts from reading the past 200 ft of mustard board!

To answer the original question, although I can read music I struggle to play a tune unless I have heard it played through. Maybe this means I can’t read music as well as I would like. I accept that but that’s life. I normally don’t learn tunes I have not heard, as has been said on here already, oh about 300 posts ago, because I have too much else on my plate! I have picked up some tunes from here or elsewhere though that I have not heard in "real life" or not consciously. The Lisnagun Jig for one. I am sure my playing of it would improve by hearing a recorded source or from hearing it played by someone who knows it well but I know how it goes from looking at the music (and getting a couple of hints to fix my poor relative note length judgement from the midi). It is kind of a simple tune though.

Most of the lessons I have ever had on the whistle has been being taught with sheet music. I still need to hear the tune played though in the class to pick it up. The dots become a memory aide (a cheat/shortcut). The good thing is my main whistle tutor was always very clear about how he would or may ornament a tune and I learned from his teaching how to ornament a tune in seeing it in sheet music form. Well I learned it from him and from going to at least 9 hours worth of solid tunes sessions a week (although with the guitar). Yes I got abuse and found it challenging as Dow and others have discussed but I learned a lot from going to those sessions and watching and picking up ideas and rhythm styles, etc from the great guitarists there. I don’t think I would have learned as much as I did if I had just done it at home or had gone to sessions filled with 3 chord guitarists. It was painful at times but I feel it was worth it - selfish as that may seem. Personally I have no problem with beginners/developing players coming along to a session and wanting to learn even if they are unable to keep up. It would be hypocritical to be that way. My attitude against the abuse was that I was trying to learn and I really was. I was making the effort to develop as a player. As long as someone comes to a session with that attitude then I am happy. It is when someone comes along and has no real interest or drive to improve that I get annoyed. They are happy to just tootle along and not seek improvement. What really annoys me is those people who have been playing in sessions for maybe 20 or 30 years and still can’t play their instrument at all or really any better than when they would have started out and don’t even realise it. That is just lazy. If you reach a standard, however mediocre (or great) and just stop learning then you might as well give up.

Anyway, now to the nub of the hijack! The idea that you can play the music without ornamentation is just farcical. If a tune is being played faster than you are used to then you might reduce your ornamentation a bit but to endeavour to learn a tune at full pace and THEN add ornamentation is just counter-productive. All that will happen is that the tune will sound cr*p and then when you do add the ornaments your rhythm will go to Hell. I know there is a debate as to whether beginners should learn the ‘basic notes’ and then add the ornaments in or whether you should add the ornaments as you go along but to strive for full speed before you add a cut is daft.

I was always taught to learn the rolls, etc along with the notes. They really are part of the tune and if you want to learn tunes by ear then you have to learn the ornaments properly. The best way to learn a tune is to play it slowly with the ornaments, even basic ones and then gradually build up the speed. As you become more competant you can change the ornaments around and add more in but you have to learn it with the ornaments to get the timing right. That is just blatant.

It is only relatively recently as my ornamentation has got better and sharper that I have had a better chance of learning tunes in sessions by ear (and I have a long way to go partcularly when the tunes are really fast). Ultimately when you start out the tunes sound likea big jumble of notes. When you start learning about rolls, etc the jumble becomes less jumbled. That blast of notes becomes a G roll for example and you know how that goes. The ornaments are so much part of a tune that without them you would just get confused - too much information. Understanding the ornaments allows you to understand the structure of a tune. It is a lot less complicated when that is in place. I couldn’t even try to learn a tune by ear without putting the rolls in. What do you do when they are doing the roll?

Yes pipe music is more rigid in its ornamentation, going hand to hand with its strict written form. Official piping dogma would say you have to ornament a tune in a very specific way (they are even written into the dots). Partly that is due to the heavy use of written music but partly it will be to do with the mechanics of the instrument ie you have to put a cut in there or otherwise those 2 notes become 1. You can’t tongue after all and you can’t just stop blowing. This has influenced Scottish music in general but few would try to claim that Irish music does not have a set of general codes that say the music should be ornamented in such a way. That is why classical musicians tend to play it wrong. If there was no set rule then it would sound fine!

Anyway, the nub of my point is I agree with Mr Gill. You can not omit the ornaments and hope to learn the tune.

I am away to look at Lady Anne Montgomery now. I know I will know it but I can’t think which tune it is. It is even tune 59 in TheSession.org tunebook - it can’t avoid being a standard with a number that low!

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

>>But surely, one of the most basic things you really have to do with it is to please yourself. To be able to play for yourself. To NOT have a presence. To not have to comunicate your music, but to simply sit in your own kitchen and and play for yourself.<<

Fair enough Llig, and i agree fully with you in this regard. As far as i am concerned that is taken for granted.

But in that case it doesnt matter what style of music, or what degree of mastery, or whether you mix salsa and trad with a generous helping of bluegrass! Whether you ornament or not its entirely up to you. Which kind of makes a lot of what we discuss here redundant.

But my point was’nt whether we ‘had ’ to communicate a presance, but whether we can. And how to do so.
I am content to continue to play the tunes as i choose, with or without other people listening or playing.
But A lot of what i do is actually hard work, I often simply wont play so much without a reason., an audience, or people to play with, or a wage at the end of the night. Sure i practice, but this is very different than playing. I consider this view to be simply realistic.
My original motivation to play was to hear the music i loved but didnt have tape machine, tapes or somewhere to put it, or electricity to power it.
Now i have these things, i can listen to people far better than i will ever be. Traditional players from the 70’s up to the present day.
I certainly wouldn’t consider my view to be ’ the full story’, but it works for me.
And just because there is no one listening to you or me in our kitchin doesn’t mean we are not communicating, it just means that no one is listening…..

That presance is a combination of technical mastery, musical understanding, and passion[ a good instrument helps!]
What form of music, style is not relevant apart from; easier forms mean there is less work involved in achieving this ‘presance’. And different instruments facilitate this in different ways.

There are to my mind two approaches to music, neither is ‘right’, a outward looking circle, or an inward looking circle. face to face, or back to back. self-referencing or for an exterior reason. Pure or applied.
You are , i deduce of the ‘pure’ inclination, i am without doubt applied. I use my music for different reasons,
To play trad on the fiddle is easy in a way compared to the banjo, or mandolin, or guitar. the mechanics of the instrument once mastered allow a relaxed fluidity that is impossible to achieve on these other instruments. I think this is one reason why i prefer to apply my music.
Anyhow i do go on…..

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

"I often simply wont play so much without a reason, an audience, or people to play with, or a wage at the end of the night."

I respectfully submit that that is not the music.

The more I read your posts jig, the more I’m inclined to opinion that I might not get on with you very well if we actually met. Nothing personal

Posted .

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Ahh ,With light music the pipe tunes are written with ornaments so that a number of pipers can play together and not trample over each other. Thats it.
For a solo piper the variety of ornaments and where they can be placed is vast.

>> Anyway, the nub of my point is I agree with Mr Gill. You can not omit the ornaments and hope to learn the tune.<,

Im sorry you are factually mistaken. Of course you can, i have done so for 25 years.

>>I couldn’t even try to learn a tune by ear without putting the rolls in. What do you do when they are doing the roll?<,

Well maybe its time you tried?
This attitude is exactly the one decried by highly skilled players on the traditional scene. Resulting in a ‘paint by numbers’ style, Every one sounding the same , same rolls, same cuts etc. I don’t mean to put you down , but please consider the fuller picture. If you played tunes on the bazouki, or guitar, which i doubt, you would realize the holes in your argument.
But its also the teachers, they think they are helping, showing where they ornament etc but this can just stunt the students growth.

>.>If a tune is being played faster than you are used to then you might reduce your ornamentation a bit but to endeavour to learn a tune at full pace and THEN add ornamentation is just counter-productive<,

I have never suggested anything of the sort, tunes have to be learnt slowly, that is obvious. once you can play the tune then you learn to speed up till you can play it at the right general pace,then you start adding your cuts etc.

Perhaps at a higher level these steps can be avoided. But for most of us, that comes after decades of playing.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I agree with you once again Llig, 😉

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

I don’t tend to play tunes on the guitar or bouzouki although I do play a few. Every instrument will have different ways of ornamenting and I would not play a tune exactly the same way on guitar as whistle but it will still be ornamented and I will work out the ornaments whilst I am working out the tune.

As far as everyone sounding the same well I appreciate from my whistle lessons that I learned how you might ornament a tune and where my tutor would put ornaments in but if you listen to enough different people then you will surely pick up different ideas. I don’t ornament exactly the same as my tutor does - I wish I could - but I do feel that when I play a new tune the ornaments almost come as second nature. This does not mean I play the tune the same way through every time. It will vary a bit and as I get to be a better player I am sure it will vary more.

If your tutor is good enough then he will teach you to think for yourself how to ornament a tune and my tutor was Marc Duff and he is very good and is certainly someone who I would describe as one of the "highly skilled players on the traditional scene" that you go on about in a kind of vague way. Any other tutor that I hve had at workshops and summer schools I would also describe as highly skilled players and they teach with ornaments as well. I appreciate not everyone does (at least not straight away) and that is fine, everyone has their own style and way of doing things. You are one of the first I have come across though who openy advocates playing a tune up to speed before you add any ornaments in at all.

I realise I have not been playing whistle for 25 years (and I am also not a professional player) but I have not been playing for only 5 minutes either so have more than an inkling of what I am talking about and you are definately talking "single fish"! 🙂

And no you have not heard from me on the ornament thread yet. I might go on it later - I might not.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Somebody who has played hundreds of Irish tunes learned by ear from traditional sources, who therefore has a strong grasp of the style both in general and the particular style of his particular instrument, if they also can read music, can play a tune off the page and make it sound right. But in almost every case you’re not playing what’s written; instead you’re using what is written as a guide to your re-creation of the tune. I find that printed versions are almost never how I would want to play the tune. Usually it’s simply because the printed version came from a different instrument. Or it could be that the source player’s version is simply not one that fits into how I play. So, nearly always, I have to re-structure the melody to some extent to make it "native".
The way I conceptualise Irish music is utterly different from "jig"’s. He seems to be saying that Irish dance tunes exist in a theoretical pure form, the "bones" as he calls it, and that this pure form is devoid of "ornamentation" under which category he puts rolls.
To me, the rolls ARE the bones. In learning a new tune, the rolls are the FIRST thing I learn. Example: let’s say I’m hearing a certain reel for the first time. My first impression of the first part, the first thing my ear identifies, is:
(low E roll) + (low G roll) + (high E roll) + (high E roll).
When I first begin playing along on the flute, that’s what I’ll play.
The "plus" signs are, of course, little linking notes that string together the various rolls.
The next thing my ear identifies are the notes which proceed rolls, in phrases in reels where the rolls occupy the last three notes of each four-note group. So my next pass on this part will be:
(low E roll) + (low G roll) + low B (high E roll) low B (high E roll)
Now, someone hearing me play might actually think that I know the tune. But those little linking notes, the things which link the rolls together, are missing. The next pass through that phrase though I’ll have them, and then I’ll have the whole thing:
(low E roll) F sharp (low G roll) A B (high E roll) B (high E roll).
So the "bones" are not a certain string of notes unique to each tune, but the various interchangable building blocks, the blocks merely being linked together in various ways.
Rolls are not the only building blocks. Another set which are quickly picked up on when learning a new tune are the "rocking" phrases where, above a fixed pedal, higher notes pop out medium-high-medium, or below the pedal medium-low-medium. Examples in reel time:
B2eBf#BeB
G2BGdGBE
A2F#ADAF#A
sometimes these descend rather than rock back and forth:
B2gBf#BeB
So that my ear, on first hearing a certain reel, might hear:
(low E roll) + (low G roll) + (descending rocking/pedal phrase B2gBf#BeB)
This is of course part of the Golden Keyboard.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

hybridised with the dunmore lasses?

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

the one before was anyway 🙂

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

"I often simply wont play so much without a reason, an audience, or people to play with, or a wage at the end of the night."

I’m also saddened by this statement. I suppose it must be a fairly common mindset these days though.

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

not a hybrid with anything, but a phrase of the Golden Keyboard as I heard it from the CD I’ve been playing along with (sorry I can’t remember which-Contentment Is Wealth or Forgotten Days or some such).

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

OK, it’s a phrase from the Golden Keyboard as played on Contentment Is Wealth by Matt Molloy and Sean Keane. I suppose you’ll say they’re just punters and don’t know how the tune should go…

Re: Learning tunes without ever hearing them played…

Sorry, I was thinking of the 1st bar, but your snippet comes from halfway thru’ - bar 3?

That first tune you did with the 2 high E rolls - isn’t that the Dunmore Lasses? E3F G3A|Be~e2 Be~e2? Just having a bit of fun trying to guess without hints from the abc.

I think your "punters" comment was unwarranted. Can’t think why you’d want to take a swipe at me - oh well.