Learning by ear at speed

Learning by ear at speed

I’ve played fiddle for about 56 years, mostly using sheet music, playing for dances for the last 20 or so where the ability to sight read is crucial. For several years I’ve been trying to learn how to learn tunes by ear. I can pick up tunes by watching another fiddler’s fingers (I even caught myself watching a whistle player’s fingers to learn a tune once). When people have tried to teach me a tune by ear they always break it in ways that seem unnatural to me and nothing sticks. I need the tune at or near session speed with nuance to understand how it works. My question to advanced musicians: how do you learn tunes at session speed in the dark?

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Take a recording device and then you can learn at your leisure. In my experience players don’t mind being recorded if it’s to learn the tunes.

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tunes usually have the same sort of structures and patterns, some bars usually come up once or twice in a tune which makes it easier so once ive heard it a couple of times you pick the tune up okay (:

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Set the fiddle down and learn to sing along with recordings. Singing (no matter how badly) will get you listening instead of looking.

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"How do you learn by ear in the dark?" Kind of answered your own question haven’t you?

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Actually, no. What I’m looking for are strategies to use to identify key points in a tune and key ornaments. Finding what can be left out and what is essential. Lots of musicians use visual cues and I suspect that identifying bowing essentials needs the visual.

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It’s not so popular among some circles around here but I find slow down software indispensable. I learn simply by listening to tunes at a speed slow enough that I am able to decipher exactly what is going on. Investing the time to learn a tune by ear really pays off and the process is challenging and enjoyable.

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forgot to say this makes learning tunes at session speed easier, esp. if the tune is played often at your session. Just a matter of ear training, I suppose.

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I find that the brain finds its own ways of learning what it regards as essential. Once you set your mind to pick up tunes at speed and keep practicing at it then the mind will find its own economic way of recognizing and chunking the needed patterns, and gradually you´ll be able to both learn when you indeed have picked up enough to start playing and the fingers will fall into place by itself by magic.

My best bet is for you to try this out with recordings/headphones - then you also can play the same tunes over and over again, and you can learn to dechipher the "big picture" as well as the tiny details. Keep working on it for a few years and you will notice that you keep getting better at it.
The final step in any tune will be to play the tunes without the recording - this is another skill that needs rehearsing as well.

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I’ve heard jokes about osmosis here on this site and its true, if your listeningto a tune , at least for me, you end up getting a feel for it and learning it without relising your doing it

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Initially, your ear will create artificial key points and articulations in tunes you are learning. These will just be the bits you get first, the landmarks where you then listen for phrases to join them. Each person though will happen across different landmarks, but the process is the same. But these so called key points should only preoccupy you throughout the initial process. You should be quickly altering these points until you get to a stage where they become fluid, i.e., shifting them at will becomes one of the expressions of your phrasing. And, of course, every time you shift them you’ll learn more about the tune, and this process should be lasting forever.

So really, learning by ear at speed is not a process of acquisition. It is the state of playing. It is THE state of playing.

And not just THE state of playing tunes yourself, but THE constant state of playing with your mates and others. You should be always learning. You should be always playing by ear, constantly listening to yourself and others. And at speed (by this I mean the speed you want to play tunes, which is not necessarily fast all the time).

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It took you 56 years to decide to learn by ear? You’re winding us up right?

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You don’t know what kind of dance band he/she’s in. You don’t know where she/he’s from. You don’t know anything about them. Could be Jig stirring for all we know

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Yeah, I don’t mean to p iss on your cornflakes Michael - it’s sound advice as usual. I’m just suspicious of somebody who is, presumably, at least well into their fifties, who claims to have played dance music on the fiddle for nearly six decades and believes that they have no ability to learn by ear. Seems a bit dodgy no?

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Not possible. The posts are far too literate for that.

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Cross

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You say "…always break it in ways that seem unnatural to me…" which says to me that you are playing what you see, rather than what you hear. I suggest that you take a tune that you know well, and try to divide it up into phrases rather than bars. The number of notes in a phrase depends on the tune, of course, but you can split large passages into mini-phrases. The idea is that the next note in the tune should seem to belong to the next phrase, or to be a link between phrases. Play the first phrase — does it seem to hold together as a unit? what if you leave a note off, or add one? Experiment until you feel satisfied with it, then see how the rest of the phrases relate to it. Do they come in groups of two, or three? Do they seem like question and answer, or statement, re-statement and conclusion. Do they repeat throughout the tune? Eventually the tune should form in your mind as a collection of phrases, which are a lot easier to remember than a series of notes.

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I disagree that sight reading is crucial to playing for dances. Unless whoever puts on the dance says you must do it or else you can’t play. And that sight is crucial to learn bowing techniques. I am totally blind and do not have a huge problem with either of these things. Have you tried closing your eyes or wearing a blindfold? maybe that would help your ear.

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We get our list of tunes about 2 weeks in advance, often with only written sources, so learning them by ear is not feasible. I’d guess we play about 100-150 different tunes in a year. Certainly some of them come up often enough that I have them memorized. I am in some danger of losing my central vision and want to continue to learn new tunes.

My comment about people teaching tunes by ear related to workshops I’ve been in where there was no written music.

I do occasionally play with my eyes closed after I’ve learned the tune.

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100-150 different tunes in a year is only two or three a week. So taking into account that you must know a fair few tunes already, it’s a piece of cake.

Tell us about your band? How many are you? Who’s the boss who gives you the tunes?

Get more democratic. Divide the amount of tunes you play a night by the amount of players and two weeks before each gig, each submit tunes you know, making an effort to include tunes you know others know. Work to doing a gig with little or no music and not only will you have a ball, the dancers will have a ball too. And aint that the point?

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Instead of looking for visual cues to replace the visual dots, try closing your eyes while you are learning a tune.
When learning a tune at session speeds, at first you just get bits and pieces, but slowly the ‘twiddly’er bits will come clear as well. Play along with the bits you can catch on to, and fill in the others later. (Avoiding, of course, the dreaded practice of noodling, ie improvising around the melody.)
I am not the best at learning strictly by ear, but as I get more tunes under my belt, I am finding it becoming easier. I think it is because there are lots of runs, arpeggios and licks that are common building blocks, and found in multiple tunes.
And I also find that the harder I think, the harder it is to get the quick parts. Let your ears connect as directly as possible with your fingers, and try to disengage thinking about each note as it comes along.

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Also, how many times through do you play tunes? If it’s only two or three, up it to at least five or six. Much easier to learn tunes that way, plus, the dancers prefer to get into of a groove of a tune played for longer. It’s old style

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Al, be careful about having stock phrases and runs as a kind of library of jigsaw pieces. Many a good tune’s interesting and orriginal turns have been ironed out by this particular lazyness.

Ever heard "it all sounds the same"?

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Good clarification, llig, you want to use those building blocks in the right places, not plug them in where they don’t belong.

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One thing I notice players do (or not do) which I believe may come from learning off sheet music is to begin most tunes on the downbeat. In other words they do not play lead in notes. I don’t think it throws off their rhythm, leaving them out. But for myself those lead ins can be an important part of the tune. They are not always transcribed into sheet music. Not every tune has them, of course.

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There was a thread about that a while ago. It was supposed to be about the little introductory notes that some tunes have. I remember trying to assert that they are not little introductory notes at all. But that they are as much a part of the tune as any of its notes.

It’s tunes where phrases not only cross bar lines, but cross repeat marks also.

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spot on, Michael.

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It seems to me that most of your average session goers that attempt to do this are compelled to do so because there seems to be a compulsion to always be playing at sessions. It’s almost as if they feel they are exposing their deficiencies should they dare to actually sit and listen. The results of their efforts often adds up to being… yes… annoying noodling. Sometimes the noodlers will even outnumber the people actually playing the tune making it difficult for that person to play and creating a cacophony instead of listenable music.

Now of course legions of noodlists will emerge from the woodwork at the session dot org to attack me on this point, (as they have in the past) because they will feel threatened that their compulsion to play on every tune is at risk, and they will make lofty claims about their abilities to defend their assumed right to noodle. But I’m hoping we have moved beyond being defensive about noodling and just acknowledge it for what it is and be honest about our abilities and the unpleasant results from excessive noodling at sessions.

“`
Here’s my personal approach to picking up tunes at sessions:

1) Spend a lot of time listening to see if you recognize the tune. You might have heard it, but you might not have as well. Sometimes you’ll think you recognize a tune and begin to play only to realize it wasn’t the tune you thought it was. Consider if you will how difficult it might be for the person playing the tune to have someone else kind of playing a similar tune at the same time.

2) If you get a positive ID on the tune, and know where it’s going… try following it in your head before attempting it on your instrument. If you can do this… that is the first indication you might be able to play along. Sometimes I’ll know most of the tune well enough to play along all except for a wee phrase or two and I’ll back off or stop at those points to hear what happens. If I do this I want to be sure it’s only a small part of the tune and not enough that I’ll interfere with the flow of the music. But sometimes I opt out in the interest of avoiding making it difficult for the person or persons playing.

3) If you recognize the tune, or listen through at least once to assess what it does, i.e. how many parts are there, key changes etc., (depending on how tricky it may or may not be,) you might actually be able to pick it up on the fly without noodling or disrupting the music.

4) You’ve heard the tune come up at the session you frequent and it’s in your head like a Christmas carol… you hear that tune in your head even when you’re walking down the street or doing daily tasks… now you’re ready to learn the tune… even at a session… even at speed. But you should still exercise caution since you never actually played it before.

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I’m with you on the noodling Mr. Button. Concerning point #1, I have on occasions too numerous to mention played a tune only to have another musician play their often very different setting —even if it sounded like crap. I mean , small differences in setting are one thing…but otherwise it doesn’t make for good music.

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Yeah, that’s a tricky one… sometimes it’s hard for the people playing a different setting to hear how different it really is since they hear their version so clearly in their head. What I thought was amusing last night was how your side of the room played The Pigeon On the Gate when the tune that was started on our side was The Drunken Landlady. That was actually two separate tunes. lol But it illustrates the same point.

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Phantom Button, Who is advocating noodling? I mentioned the practice in the form of a warning not to do it. And now you seem to fear that ‘legions of noodlists’ are going to descend on us like a horde of locusts or something. And who is advocating playing along with everything at sessions? Again, I am not, I often argue against the practice, and I don’t see anyone on the thread who is saying people should play along with everything. I can see playing along with a tune when you are trying to learn it, even if you don’t know the whole tune, as long as those parts you do play fit what is going on. Which is hardly something that can be called noodling.
Sign me,
Confused

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I think noodling is better from a melody player than from a backer, once you add backing you can’t just drop out when you don’t know what chord to play, nor can you play a chord that doesn’t fit. You have to know your way around many possibilities to even be able to play chord backing on the fly. The only tunes I learn without sheet music are the ones that I learn by osmosis from local players, most of which I am still learning, but some have become part of my regular repertoire. I think of those tunes differently than stuff I learned on my own from recordings, I could easily write any tune learned by ear into notation though and if I were reading it for the first time would learn it much faster than if I learned by ear alone. I think the main point of learning by ear is to do it slowly, in a process of gradual learning that engages your mind to seek out other possibilities while trying to learn a melody that will help you to be able to vary and decorate that melody and ultimately have a better handle on the music. Sheet music is encouraging to people who are quick learners and people who will just try to cram a tune into the repertoire before a gig, because they like it so much and want to bring fresh material into the fold. But when you do that you don’t really know the tune the same as if you learned it gradually over many weeks or months, or years. If I do find myself playing a tune at a session I’ve never played before, I know it’s because I heard the tune before, probably on many occasions, and have moved my left hand fingers as if I were noodling without actually bowing the strings. I do this so much that I think It must built my muscle memory to a point that when I do put my bow on the strings, I will at least know what I am attempting to play. I might look at a players fingers to determine where they are playing pitchwise, but you hear a tune so many times and you just eventually know what key it’s in. then you start to pick up the phrasing, distinguishing it from other tunes you know or have heard already, I almost always learn the accented notes first at speed. They are the parts that pop that even if you just played those notes in a certain way it could at a lot to a session. Ryan’s Polka comes to mind with it’s |d d bcdb| AFAF | Once in a session I found it sounded really good to just play the first two d notes with a double stop with the low D and then nothing else for the next measure and a half for one time through the A part. I got at least one look, never asked that person what they were thinking though. Of course I played that double stop really percussively , don’t know why, just felt like I heard it somewhere before

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Al… who said you were noodling?

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So PB, if I learn Pigeon on the Gate, I won’t need to learn The Drunken Landlady? Is it an either or thing? Is it political; is there some reason why “they” sit on the other side of the room? ; )

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Eòsaph, they’re different tunes. It illustrates why it’s a good idea to try to listen to what’s going on before playing. It’s also one reason I like to give snippets of tunes I intend to play together before I start them.

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Oh… and no politics… it was funny how the tune started on one side of the circle and the people on the other side all hopped on the gate instead.

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By the time the sound traveled across the room and through the chitchat the landlady was just ever so slightly more inebriated than she was before.

I heard they had to call a cab for her.

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Phantom~
Might that have been caused by one side of the circle’s inability to hear (poor acoustics of the room, loud din of the punter/drinkers in close proximity of the circle, etc.) as opposed to one side not listening to the start of the tune long enough to rule out similar tunes starting with the same phrase?
Also the session host beckoned at least once for the circle to come closer together and form concentric circles making a tighter closed-in sound thus making it easier to hear as opposed to one large circle (I counted 19 players at one point, so that’s a pretty large circle). The circle was at least 6 to 8 feet in diameter, so with the din of the punters/drinkers, and poor room acoustics, I can see why a circle that large might have had problems identifying a tune such as Drunken Landlady vs. Pigeon on the Gate.

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I agree with little_chup that playing tune snippets each time kills spontaneity. But then I guess it depends what you want the end result to be: a session or a p… oh, my god, I almost said it. Naughty me…

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Playing a snippet of a tune in advance would mean knowing what tune you’re going to play next before getting there, wouldn’t it? Where is the fun in that?

I prefer playing a tune and as I am getting to the end of the repeat of the B part the third time through, thinking, "Oh, crap! I don’t have a PLAN!" Then playing the tune a fourth time while I try to think of something. And careening as awkwardly as possible into a completely different tune from the one I thought of.

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That’s one way to do it. But if you want real fun, play a few snippets of tunes first, to fake people out entirely.

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Haha… That happens as well.

Me: Lets play Sailor on the Rock into the Mossy Banks.

*tunes played*

Whoever is sitting next to me: That wasn’t the Mossy Banks.

Me: Uh, no.

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Other player: "That wasn’t the Peacock’s Feather"
Me: "No, that was the peacock’s other feather."

or, the famous response to a similar quandary:

"That wasn’t the Woman of the House at all!"
"Well, don’t you know, there could be more than one woman in that house."

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Stop with the snippets already. If you have to play a tune 5 or 6 times for everyone to hear it well enough, fair play. It just really is a set up to play a snippet or name a tune & then change up the rhythm (or tempo) or even play a different tune. I’m just ranting though. We’ve come up with some great sets because something changed up from what we thought was going to happen. Session Happens! It’s not a P_______.

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The question really gets to one of the great parodoxes of playing Irish sessions. Certainly you want everything to sound good & be worth listening to overall. So you listen, the best you can, instead of diving straight into every tune. But in truth, at some point you have to do both. You resist the compulsion to dive into the unknown yet still be willing (ready or not) to get on that bike & ride, so you can find out what it’s like without training wheels. Just don’t run into a tree.

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Ultimately, you’re trying to develop the ability to play one tune while thinking of the next. It comes, sooner or later. In the meantime, sometimes you’re going to do your George of the Jungle routine. It’s okay.

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One of the most sessionesque things that happens is this: occasionally there’s a ‘hup’ and someone leads us all into another tune of the set and nearly everybody hears or interprets the first few notes as a differently and proceeds to play assorted tunes. What follows is 8 or so bars of modal cacophony until we all settle down and decide what tune we are all actually supposed to be playing.

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delete ‘as a’ from line two!

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That’s the way to do it, yhaalhouse. A democratically selected on the fly tune set!

I like the excitement of putting tunes together that I have never played together before. Or simply of not knowing what I am going to play next (I’ll play a D cran once I finish this set and it will magically become a tune).

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I just reread the OP. Fiddletina, each of your references about learning are visual. Just wondering if you can learn a tune without any reliance on mental or physcial imagery. It might seem like a minor point but I think there is a more direct (aural) connection with music. I know there are others onsite who know more about this than myself.

Speaking of visuals, I just now got the George of the jungle bit, "Watch out for that tree!"

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Never seen that snippet thing much. I’d rather play it extra few times if people pick it up, and vice versa. If I pick it up keep it going for me an extra few times, will ya? ;-)

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I never do the snippet thing anyway (I’ll just suggest tune names sometimes). You try playing a quiet snippet on the pipes.

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I I tend to play with my eyes closed and therefore miss all the cues and clues (and also all the crumpet, fights, offers of free drinks, pints marching off the table into yours or someone else’s lap and so forth).
But it does mean I’m zoomed right in on the music.

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Being a backer (and session wrecker of course) I never actually start a tune. But I’m happy to come in on the wrong chord or wotteffah!

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You’re a backer? There was me thinking all this time you played melody on… something… :)

It definitely helps to come in on the wrong chord on the tune I think I’m playing, which is not the tune which is coming out of the chanter. So the chord may very well be the right chord for the tune on the chanter, but the wrong chord for the tune in my head.

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I always thought trousers were more of a melody instrument. Fair play if you can use them for accompaniment as well!

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It was the hot water bottles that had me confused. I could have sworn they were a melody instrument.

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fiddlerdan, there were people on the other side of the circle who heard the discrepancy and stopped playing the Pigeon on the Gate, so your argument that it was room acoustics and din isn’t necessarily the case. In other words there were people amongst them who WERE listening.

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Regarding tune snippets: this always amuses me when people come out in opposition to it. They are often the same people who string the same tunes together week after week ‘spontaneously.’

I first got the idea for the tune snippet approach after visiting Ireland and observing it’s wide use there in sessions. I also remember when visiting musicians, like Joe Burke, would use snippets to introduce his medley ideas when asked to guest host local sessions. What was interesting was to see the ‘spontaneous’ advocates hijacking these medley ideas because they weren’t tuned into paying attention when someone is playing snippets to indicate what they wanted to play.

The advantage of course, opposed to the spontaneous lot that play tunes they intended to string together as well, is that playing the snippets allowed everyone the opportunity to make the tune changes together, and no one had to yell out tune titles to recruit people into making the change with them by yelling tune names, etc. Also, the key of the tune doesn’t have to be shouted if there’s a backer present.

In more recent days I found it interesting that I would be criticized for using the snippets by some of the more obstinate players who would instruct me to ‘shut up and play’ or intentionally ignore my snippets or make fun of them, but when a musician from Ireland was present and used snippets, they would pay attention and go along with it enthusiastically.

At any rate, I think it’s up to whomever is suggesting and starting tunes to decide what approach they would l prefer to use. I never attack or criticize people for not using snippets.

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Ahyup. As I said, I hadn’t seen it much. Have seen folks say names of tunes they plan on paying first. Have played a few notes for a name that didn’t ring a bell myself.

Ultimately, if people aren’t listening when the tune changes, I’m pretty sure they’re not doing it right. All it takes is for people to pay attention and listen when the tune changes. If you know it, play it, if you don’t, listen and enjoy. Too much planning and preprogramming on the front end is a little work-like, but your opinions may vary.

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It’s not work… lol If you ever think a session is work you’re doing something wrong.

Playing tune snippets to let people in on what you intend to play is effortless. What still amazes me though is why people resist and criticize it so much. As I said, these are often the same people who string the same tunes together week after week… ‘spontaneously.’ If you want to string tunes together on the fly it’s your choice and I won’t stop or criticize anyone for doing it, but why is the idea of using the tune snippet approach assaulted? Why can’t it just be to-each-his-own? It’s all good… right?

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There… we have it again… no tolerance for snippets. Amazing, yet I see it used all around sessions in Ireland and by visiting musicians from Ireland. I guess all we can conclude is the worst thing about Irish trad is Irish people.

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Good to see you back, jig. Wonder if Jeremy’s noticed…

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"Then playing the tune a fourth time while I try to think of something"

ha ha

then everyone plays everything four times cos they think that’s what you’re doing, except you’re changing after twice cos you thought of a tune this time, and can’t figure out why nobody’s following

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I think you’re just being defensive there, Jack. I don’t see much evidence of people "not tolerating" snippets… I just see a bunch of people saying why they don’t like using them…

For myself, I certainly don’t judge someone for doing the snippet thing before starting a set, I just choose not to do it myself, for the same reason that SS mentioned. I usually have no clue where I’m going next. I’m waiting for something to inspire me (and sometimes that doesn’t happen until the last couple of notes of a tune, when there’s a bit of a sense of urgency.)

There are occasions where the inspiration doesn’t strike, and I end up going into the ‘same old tune that we always play’, which is probably the reason for people ‘spontaneously’ playing the same sets. But I get really bored by playing the same sets all the time. I do enjoy it when I find a good transition, and I always try to file it away for future use. But for me, it’s much more fun if the great transition was spontaneous.

I will sometimes do the snippet thing if someone asks me how a tune goes, and what commonly happens is that people pick up on the snippet, and start playing that tune. Even if it wasn’t what I was going to play, or maybe something that I was going to play later in the set, etc.

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That’s what usually happens with me - I’ll ask someone, do you know this one, and play the start of it, and then they say "yes" and launch into it, and I feel like a bit of a fool because I had something in mind, and that one came at the end of it, and then we get to about fourth or fifth time through the one they started and they’re looking at me, as though I’m supposed to know what I wanted to play after it.
So I usually don’t do that.

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Rev…

Here’s just one example: "The greatest joy in a session is when someone goes into a tune and your fingers play it and your head hasnt a clue what it is and halfway through the tune recognition dawns and the fingers and head are alligned and for the rest of the tune a happiness is there that makes the whole night a pleasure.It cant happen if someone uses snippets."

In other words, there’s no ‘happiness’ and no ‘pleasure’ if you use the snippet method.

If you look at the posts on this thread the comments opposed to the snippet method are basically having a similar sentiment. I have never said that not using the snippets is somehow interfering with the fun of what a session is or can be… that’s the difference… it’s not defensive to point out the obvious intolerance for something that I actually learned by observing sessions in Ireland. I also noticed there was no intolerance there for not using snippets. Why does the intolerance only occur outside of Irish borders?

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Rev writes: "I end up going into the ‘same old tune that we always play."

This is another reason I prefer snippets; I can let people know that I’m not doing the ‘same old set’ and in fact trying a new idea. I have even put tunes together spontaneously when playing snippets deciding at that moment what tunes to splice together. I have also created sets spontaneously as a team with others deciding through the process what tunes to play. Is that not spontaneous enough to satisfy the jet set who want to fly by the seat of their pants all night? But as I said, I don’t tell anyone else what approach to use… I go along with whatever they like when they are starting tunes. But why doesn’t the road go both directions when it comes to my taking a turn suggesting tunes? Why should I be bullied into flying by the seat of my pants too?

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Jon… you have to get them used to it. I’ll say, "wait a sec… that’s the last tune… I wanted to start with this one" and play a snippet of that one. Of course you’ll be abused for spoiling everything by the jet set and they’ll criticize you for not being ‘spontaneous’ and try to bully you into doing what they prefer.

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Legions of noodlers, two different tunes going at once, rampant snippet intolerance. Things must be pretty tough out there on the left coast! ;-)

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Oh no! Are they picking on you again Mr. Button?

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Yeah… well I’m glad my comments about legions of noodlers and hoping we are beyond that seems to have thwarted what we witnessed here in the past, but I find the intolerance of snippets more amusing than disheartening. All in all the session scene here in SF has improved over the years, and there’s less and less intolerance for different ways of doing things. I see people using both concepts and no one is getting pushed out of shape over it. As for the playing 2 tunes at once: I haven’t seen that happen too often… it just happened very recently is all.

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Jack, the guys I play with, when they start playing I don’t want them to stop nohow. Don’t matter what I was thinking of playing - it’s not about me in any case.
Don’t fret, though, there’s plenty of sets that go the way I meant them to, and plenty more that I screw up on my own hook, without any help from anyone. :)

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It’s not intolerance for me personally, Joel… it’s for an idea… a concept.

Re: Learning by ear at speed

I don’t have any intolerance for snippets (really? we are actually discussing this?). I just don’t use them myself because (a) it would entail a level of organization and planning I generally try to avoid for most things, including sessions and (b) I play the pipes. Everyone and their mother will hear your snippet and think you’re starting that tune.

Re: Learning by ear at speed

I’m not in control of where these discussions go… people seem to want to discuss snippets… I’ll discuss snippets.

I can see your dilemma regarding playing snippets on pipes, but I’ve also seen it done with no problem. I think it really comes down to whether you want to or not.

Re: Learning by ear at speed

Like I said, at the end of the day playing snippets would entail planning a whole set of tunes. That is more planning than I prefer to be doing.

I admit, I do it now and then if I’m asking someone, "Do you know the one that goes like this?" If they say yes, I start that tune (without a clue what I’m going to play next). If they say no, I try something else unless it’s a session where I think I can play a potentially solo tune without wishing for a trapdoor to open underneath my seat.

Re: Learning by ear at speed

I have run into the two tunes at once thing on more than one occasion, even been part of the problem. Like when someone misses the ‘hup’ or the raised foot or raised eyebrow, and stays with one tune while everyone else is on to the next. To get back to the original topic, can you imagine what happens when someone is ‘learning by ear at speed’ when this happens? Is there a musical version of whiplash?
Come to think of it, we could all be real spontaneous and switch tunes after just one B part, or other similar such tricks. Think of the possibilities! ;-)

Re: Learning by ear at speed

little_chump, I wasn’t implying you lived outside of Ireland, all I said is that most of the intolerance I’ve seen seems to be outside Ireland, based on my own experiences and observations. As for your opinion; it does seem rather absolute. I prefer to use snippets, but when people elect not to it certainly doesn’t kill the joy FOR ME. What does kill the joy for me is when people insist on everyone using their method and bullying people who choose to do something different into abandoning their chosen method and going with whatever the bully prefers. I’m not saying you do that, I’ve never played in a session with you, but when someone belittles others for using snippets or quips things like, "shut up and just play the tune" it can cast a bit of a pall… don’t you agree?

Re: Learning by ear at speed

I wasn’t trying to interpret your point… I was making my own and asking a question.

Re: Learning by ear at speed

"shut up and just play the tune" I’ve got to try that on you sometime. Just don’t take it personally!

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Re: Learning by ear at speed

It’s already been tried… and you could probably guess who said it, Joel. Don’t venture to guess here though… I won’t answer. ;-)

Re: Learning by ear at speed

Maybe I’m too used to local dialect, but intolerance of snippets sounds like prejudice against circumicised males to me.

But Jack, should I be honoured to take part in one of your performances of sets of tunes I’d be most appreciative of some snippets beforehand, though I’m unlikely to be any more enlightened as a result.

To be honest, the better players round here tend to look at duffers like me while they’re playing mid-set and move to tunes that they know are in my/their repertoire from having heard me/them previously

On the fly, straight up, no snippets

Very considerate and ensures they get participation in the final tune or two

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Re: Learning by ear at speed

Just having a bit of fun with snippets. The best I can remember they have been a part of sessions ever since I learnt my 1st tune. "How’s that one go again?" ~ plays the 1st 2 bars. "Thanks!"
When the exchange helps it is grand. Still, sets (& sessions) don’t always proceed in orderly fashion. They can be responsible for a trainwreck, at times. But sometimes accidents happen & the session is able to hold it together, or bring it back. In that case the snippet may not be so helpful (for instance, the tune played might end up being different from the snippet). When snippets work in a session that is grand. & when they don’t, it’s still good if the session as a whole is able to make the set work anyway.
I’m not for or against snippets. These are only as good as the snippeteer. In some hands a snippet is noodlized. It’s another one of those things which vary.
A more on topic question might be do they help or hinder the OP ~ "Learning by ear at speed"

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Re: Learning by ear at speed

Regarding the OP. Sometimes I do a bit of woodshedding with similar tunes which IMHO helps when certain tunes come up in session. A couple of years ago I did this with "Sally Gardens Reel" & "Spootiskerry". We never played them back to back in a session but I practiced them back to back. They have certain similarities & wanted to make sure I wasn’t making those bits sound exactly the same. We do play "Fermoy Lasses" with "Morning Dew" together so I only do a bit of woodshedding on those two. Sometimes I try to make sure we play them more than just three times each. I guess what I am saying is I want each tune to have it’s own character so they don’t be come one large mass of a tune.
The reason I thought of this is I want to give another listen to Liz Carroll playing her "Pigeon on the Gate" set & see what I can pick up by ear.

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Re: Learning by ear at speed

Intolerance would be saying something like "I’m going to beat the he’ll outa the next guy that tries to play a tune snippet before starting a set", or refusing to go to sessions where that practice happens, or getting up and walking out when someone does it.

I don’t consider people saying why they don’t like doing the snippet thing themselves (or even why they don’t like it when other people do it) to be "intolerance". It’s just discussing the merits for and against doing it. And I have a hard time imagining someone trying to "bully" someone into not doing. It… There’s no oppression here…

I’m guessing if you took a poll of the people who spoke out in this thread saying why they don’t like it, you’d find that not one of them would care enough to bat an eyelash if someone did it in their session, let alone get up and walk out…

Re: Learning by ear at speed

first they came for the snippeteers, and I said nothing ….

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Re: Learning by ear at speed

Mike, the leader of the session at Duffy’s in Chico uses the snippet approach to tune sets, he calls all the tunes, but plays snippets to get some "buy-in" from the players through a little back-and-forth. One issue there is that its so loud in the pub (afternoon session on a Friday afternoon during happy hour with free food in a college town) that snippets are about the only way to communicate other than shouting. I think it works really well.

Re: Learning by ear at speed

Bren writes: "To be honest, the better players round here tend to look at duffers like me while they’re playing mid-set and move to tunes that they know are in my/their repertoire from having heard me/them previously"

This is one way of doing it, and playing snippets allows you to find out if ‘duffers’ like you know the tune or not as well before launching into a set.

~~~

Bren also wrote: "But Jack, should I be honoured to take part in one of your performances of sets of tunes I’d be most appreciative of some snippets beforehand, though I’m unlikely to be any more enlightened as a result."

In fact that’s another plus for playing snippets; you find out if the other players know the tune or not before starting and you avoid suddenly ‘performing’ a tune all by yourself.

Re: Learning by ear at speed

"first they came for the snippeteers, and I said nothing …."
Good one, Bren, I laughed out loud!

Re: Learning by ear at speed

If we heard someone playing snippets most would assume they were just noodling or musically chatting with their mates and launch into a set of different tunes altogether

They must be very polite where you are Jack, do they have a committee meeting before each set or what?

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Re: Learning by ear at speed

and there are certain musicians who all the young lads will follow no matter who else is trying to start a set …

try beating this one with yer snippets old fella …http://tinyurl.com/38m3lfx

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Re: Learning by ear at speed

Actually, Bren, our sessions are populated with people who listen to each other at sessions. Call it polite if you like, I just call it common decency. I wouldn’t, however, refer to them as a "committee" because that is far from necessary. If forming committees is what it takes to get people to behave decently at your session, then I’m glad I live here instead.

Re: Learning by ear at speed

Now, now, lets not let our snippet discussion get snippy here!

Re: Learning by ear at speed

I got the doctor at Marie Stopes to snippet in September 1981. Life’s been carefree ever since.

I still wish I hadn’t driven myself home across London in a heatwave afterwards though…

Re: Learning by ear at speed

It’s ok Stevie … just come on out to Oregon…. we’ve havin’ rain and wind like nobodies business the last few days.

Re: Learning by ear at speed

All in favor of snippets raise their hand….

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Re: Learning by ear at speed

I usually run a pentatonic scale to get the right key then after a time or three start knocking out the chords. If they play it enough I usually pick up the tune but it takes 8 or 10 playings.