tunes for ear training?

tunes for ear training?

I’d like to find some tunes with lots of repetition…I feel chained to my sheet music so I want to make the transition to playing by ear. Any suggestions would be appreciated! [ty]

Re: tunes for ear training?

Maids of Mt Kisco is a good one, but I expect you already know it.

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Re: tunes for ear training?

Thanks gam…..I’ll add that one to my list.
I just had a look at “Down to Carlow” [newly posted]….that would probably be a good starter tune.

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I’d say any tunes that you know well enough to hum or whistle but don’t yet know how to play would be good ‘uns. First three tunes I learnt by ear were “The Mason’s Apron“, “The Queen of the Fair” and “The Humours of Ennistymon” - all tunes that I’d listened to so much previously that it made picking them out by ear very straightforward.

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I’m familiar with Mason’s Apron…..good suggestion! [ty]

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Tunes with lots of repetition? Have you thought of trying Irish tunes? [tee hee]

But seriously, lost of the ones that you’ll get at the top of the list if you click on members and then tunebook, will be stuff that would suit your purpose. Specifically, try Harvest Home, Rolling in the Ryegrass, Kesh Jig, Maid Behind the Bar, Teetotaller, Out on the Ocean. Obviously, loads more as well …

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It’s funny thought, isn;t it? Some tunes are difficult precisely *because* they’re repetitive. I’d class the Gold Ring as one of those.

Re: tunes for ear training?

Triplet hornpipe.

“I’d like to find some tunes with lots of repetition.”

I recommend Philip Glass. Philip Glass is good. Lots to learn from Philip Glass.

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Philip Glass.

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Philip Glass.

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Philip Glass.

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Here’s a good way to unchain yourself from the sheet music.
That’s to listen to as much Trad as you can. Pick a tune, any tune. Only pick one tune at a time. Listen to it twenty or more times a day. Don’t worry about playing it until after about two or three weeks. By then you’ll be humming it all day long.
Then when you can feel and hear it internally, pick up your instrument and play. Use the recording to check what you are playing and listen listen listen. Play play play. It takes time and patience. That’s how I do it.
I started playing the Humors of Carrigholt last week and didn’t even know I had learned it until it came out of me one day. I’d been listening to it on Liam O’Flynn’s cd for the past couple of years. I just love that tune and listened to it over and over without trying to play it and then presto! There it was. I had it.

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Playing by ear is easier than you might think.

You just have to listen and get the tune in your head. The rest is just trial and error, there are only so many possibilities to go through before finding what makes the right sound.

Slow-downer software can help, especially if you can loop phrases of a tune. Just listen and noodle around until you get it. It doesn’t require perfect pitch or great talent, it seems harder than it really is.

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I’ve just been playing Behind the Haystack (if you know what I mean). That’s a good one to try if you don’t already have it. It sticks in your ear nicely.
I second what Boat[piper says, but add that it is quite possible to listen to tunes for years and still not know how they go. It is a certain kind of listening that’s needed, which is what I think you are after. Start small, and build up gradually – one day you’ll surprise yourself by picking up a tune in one go.

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Re: tunes for ear training?

Best tunes to learn by ear for me are ones for which I cannot find dots, then there is no temptation when one little phrase just won’t come right. I recently learned ‘Basil the Retriever’ lovely tune that seemed to be on no-one’s site (maybe it is now). The fact that it was a great tune, not dotted anywhere gave me great motivation. I’m a struggler with learning by ear, but struggle I did and now I have got it.

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Re: tunes for ear training?

Thanks so much to each of you for your ‘take’ on things. I even thought [horror of horrors] that I might compose a tune to get a feel for the process from that perspective.
I don’t want to memorize tunes….I want to hear a note and know where to find it on the fingerboard. I appreciate your advice and encouragement!

Re: tunes for ear training?

The Flight Of The Bumble Bee, perhaps.

Re: tunes for ear training?

baylady, bear in mind that there are two skillsets needed for getting a tune by ear and playing it on your instrument. One is the ability to hear a tune and recreate it accurately in your head. That’s a matter of hearing intervals and timing accurately, storing it permanently, and then retrieving it all. This is the easy part–the part we all tend to do reflexively. Think about all the songs you learned as a kid that you never saw sheet music for–Frere Jacques, Alouette, Bingo Was His Name-Oh, Happy Birthday, etc. You already have this skillset–it just needs to be dusted off and honed. The more you use it, the better it gets.

The second skillset is being at home on your instrument–a very different thing. You have to know where the sounds are and how to make them in order to bring the tune out on that instrument.

So one way to get better at all this is to play melodies that you already know–things that you probably learned by ear in the first place: Happy Birthday, holiday music (e.g. christmas carols), nursery rhyme and childhood songs, and the latest simple pop stuff off the radio. Even things like Ode to Joy or Amazing Grace. Hum such a tune first, and then find it on your instrument. Play it till it feels comfortable. Then start it on a different note and suss it out in a different key. The more you do this, the easier it gets and the more readily you can simply play what you hear in your head.

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Re: tunes for ear training?

Good ole Will strikes again, clear, concise and to the point.
Boy-o-boy that’s some good adice there Mr. Harmon.

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Boatpiper, I agree!

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Yep. Good lad Will.

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Re: tunes for ear training?

I’m surprised that no one has mentioned any polkas, many of which I’ve just been absorbing effortlessly as of late. I’m not sure why I didn’t learn Britches Full of Stitches, Egan’s, or Bill Sullivan’s ages ago, but somehow they worked their way into my repertoire. They’re all very repetitive, and a friend recently pointed out that polkas tend to be rhythmically related to nursery rhymes, which makes them feel familiar right from the start.

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Good advice from Will, as usual. I would add: if you want to train your ear so you can play Irish tunes, listen to lots of Irish tunes, and “internalize” the common phrases.

My personal “aha” moment: Playing “Pipe on the Hob” (the Dmix one) without even trying to learn it. It was just there.

Here’s how: I knew how the tune went, because it’s on a couple of albums in my collection. When I tried it, I remember thinking, “It probably starts with that suspended major-third interval on the D string (third/second fingers, open string)…” And so it did.

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oops, A string. Same principle, though.

Re: tunes for ear training?

Baylady - Think about purchasing Seamus Creagh’s Tunes For Learning - it is a 2 CD set and very good.

Polkas are a definitely a good suggestion. I’m going to suggest Mazurkas. I have serious challenges in learning tunes by ear but had almost no trouble with the three mazurkas my teacher recently taught me. I only know the name of one of them - Campbell’s #1.

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OOPS - make that Vincent Campbell’s #1. sorry.

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I had not thought of polkas or mazurkas either….I’ll definitely look into those. Thanks all!

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A p.s. on my Pipe on the Hob (Dmix) story, with a nod to Will Harmon. The more common opening notes (I think) of that tune are the same phrase as the beginning of Stephen Foster’s song “Beautiful Dreamer.” Maybe that’s why the phrase was so familiar to me.

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The Fairy Dance and High Road to Linton are two simple reels, as is one I just learned, Johnny McIljohns. There are quite a few repetitive little reels that have two four bar parts, rather than two eight bar parts.
And for ear training, nothing wrong with starting to figure out simple songs that you already know, don’t have to be Irish tunes…

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To start with I found it easier with pentatonic tunes. No semitone intervals and playable in more keys without using notes outside of the D and G scales. So like Amazing Grace as suggested by Will. Trouble is you may have to peek at the dots to check that they are pentatonic.

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Since you are fond of slow airs, I recommend that you find a couple to play along with – that way you have plenty of time(?) to find the notes. You can even use slow downer to start off. And bear in mind that it’s not the absolute position of the note on the fingerboard you are after, but the note in relation to the finger before, if that makes sense. Direction and distance, not string and fret number.

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Re: tunes for ear training?

Great tune suggestions everyone! I am a big fan of Mr. Bain!

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I agree about the Seamus Creagh tutor cd. Its just Seamus playing at a slow but rhythmic pace. My advice would be not to learn a tune but to play it in the car or any time you can in the house for a good few weeks even months. Then approach the tunes that sit best with you and it might be easy enough learn them by ear. The tunes he plays arent the most common but they are not uncommon and they all seem nice to me . Nice post Al!

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Thanks for this lovely discussion. Lots of useful thoughts here.

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“I started playing the Humors of Carrigholt last week and didn’t even know I had learned it until it came out of me one day”

I’m still relatively new to the fiddle, and one of the best feelings ever is when you play a tune at a session and half way through playing it realise you’ve never “learned” it and this is the first time you’ve ever played it - you just know it so well, that your fingers/brain know where to go.

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Re: tunes for ear training?

“I started playing the Humors of Carrigholt last week and didn’t even know I had learned it until it came out of me one day”

I can hardly wait for this ‘eureka’ moment! 🙂

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You know how to speak. It’s the same thing with knowing your instrument. It’s more to do with being familiar with your instrument (& the idiom) than with learning each tune in total isolation. Play everything you hear. In a given day each of us hears more sounds than we could ever transcribe. That’s why god gave us music, or instruments, or sessions; or something just ears. I don’t know. Play everything! Sleep with your instrument. Hum, lilt, dance …. wake up playing. Force strangers to sing a tune. Recycle your extra sheet music score baggage.

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Re: tunes for ear training?

Good suggestions! I can tell when my intonation is ‘off’ so I know I’m not completely hopeless. [grin]
Perhaps I should try finding short phrases, triplets etc. on my fiddle first….that might increase my auditory memory.
Cheers!

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A bit of transposing of familiar tunes can be good ear training, not to mention getting to know your instrument. This next might be considered pure blasphemy onsite. Many songs are fairly simple, repetitive melodies. But it’s that basic principle, if you can sing it you can play it. Here is a *song* I was just listening to this morning & I think you may be able to pick it up by ear.
The Holohan Sisters “Cam Ye O’er Frae France”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIjOEB1-PSE

Don’t mean to take you away from learning tunes with all their twiddlies. Just a reminder that whether it is a song or a tune you can sing them regardless, & it’s a good way to get it in your head.

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