learning tunes…..

learning tunes…..

QUESTION ONE: Who learns one tune every week, week in week out? Perchance a delightful Sunday ritual, by which they read (or listen to) a new tune, practise it and then quietly commit it to memory as they take the dog for a Sunday walk, returning by the fireside o’ th’ eventide with contemplative reflection and serene serenity, adding sweet polishes and touches to the melody, thereby making it their own?

QUESTION TWO: Who learns five tunes a day, for a two-week stretch, fanatically, aquisitively, flipping thru cds and books, playing playing playing until the brain spins and the head hurts and the body goes sleepless and then burns out, so that the heart says "No more! I quit this stupid music!"

just wondering……( by my calculations both types end up with about 3000 tunes at the end of their life….

one more wee question: can we take these tunes with us when we go?

Re: learning tunes…..

I usually learn at least one or two a week; anymore than that and I start forgetting them. I once learned three jigs in a day, but that was an exception.

I might add that I strongly prefer the first method—slow and methodical. If you learn tunes like the above mentioned fanatic, isn’t that doing ITM an injustice? Isn’t that being a feverish number-cruncher instead of a true learner? It’s like frantically zooming through the shower after waking up 30 minutes late in contrast to being immersed in a warm bath at the end of the day. ITM—and music in general—is supposed edify, not burn you out! :)

-Jonathan

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Re: learning tunes…..

I go in spurts. For a while I was learning a tune a day, and if I skipped a day, I made sure I learned two the next. It didn’t last long, a couple of weeks, maybe. But none of my music buddies could keep up with me, and I found I had tons of tunes that nobody would play with me. On one occasion I had to learn about eight tunes in a matter of days because they were required for a holiday ball we were playing. I also tried writing a tune a day. That was fun, but fizzled for the same reason, and most of those tunes I don’t even remember any more, though most are filed on the computer. I was writing a poem every day, too. I enjoyed that more than writing and/or learning tunes daily. Alas, at some point my mood took a swing and inspiration dried up. I think it was when I started working for a living, coming home tired, crabby, and in demand. Just for fun, though, here is the first poem I wrote when I first decided I would write a poem every day.

I’ll wite a poem every day, and this will be the first one.
There’s not much inspiration here. I hope it is the worst one.
If I should die before I wake, then this will be the last one.
If that’s the case, this stupid poem will also be the best one.

Oh, and to answer your last question, v, most of my tunes I expect to take with me, because few people will ever have learned them. *sigh*

Kate

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I found the best solution is to just learn all the tunes and get it over with…

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I’m constantly learning tunes. Sometimes, I have to learn quite a few very quickly, if I’m playing with other musicians for a performance, but mostly it’s just at my own pace and leisure. It’s not as simple as lerning one tune and moving on to the next, though. Of course, you can do this with the very easy tunes but I usually have several tunes "on the go" and learn them over a period of weeks. I certainly don’t introduce them into sessions or in public straight away, although I might well play them, if someone else starts. Basically, what I’m saying is that "learning a tune" isn’t the same as "mastering" it. That usually takes a little longer.

John

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aint it the truth..we can learn tunes, memorize them, but its a bit of a leap to go to the third step, that sort of really comfortable place..

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i seem to be with rocking bow - periods of activity and then a long plateau stretch (no comments,please!)

for instance,at the moment i’m very taken with the tunes on tommy peoples’ ‘waiting for a call’ album- but i know i’ll have to give it a rest when that’s gone through the system.not being a kid anymore,my brain can’t soak up as much as it used to,unlike the liver,sadly.

although it just occurs that here i’m only talking about tunes i want to learn so that i could start them off without ‘help’ from anyone in a session-there’s a lot of other tunes constantly on the back burner that ever so slowly get to a point where i can play along but only with other people.

perhaps danny will have something to say about the hippocampus & all that brainy stuff..but what undergraduate river horses have got to do with it,god only knows…

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ditto with John J!

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I’ve been learning a tune, sometimes two a week. That seems like plenty! It’s a challenge, constantly, to work on the new stuff, and also the "back burner" ones, and also the comfortable ones, just so they stay comfortable. That’s the fiddle stuff. Add working on harp stuff to the mix and I am quite busy with it all.

I am a tiny bit apprehensive about The Catskills Irish Week coming up soon and all of those tunes we’ll be learning in the span of a single week!

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Re: learning tunes…..

…and of course we can’t take it with us (although I’m not totally sure about that, never having been "there".), but we can pass it on to others, and in a way that’s just as good.

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Re: learning tunes…..

Hm… I was beginning to feel like every time I learned a new tune, an old one dropped out of my brain onto the floor. But oddly enough, while I was at the RenFaire last weekend, meeting up with folks I hadn’t seen or played with in 7-8 years, we launched into some old repertoire and it was all as fresh as the day I’d first learned it. And I was throwing new tunes in between as well. Dunno where those old tunes go when they go into hiding, but they find their way back even so.

Yeah, there’s nothing like an intensive workshop to burn you out, 5 tunes a day for 3 days was enough for me. After that I just wanted to noodle on a mandolin ‘cause that’s all my brain could cope with.

A tune a week worked pretty well for me (well, two tunes every two weeks when I was taking lessons from Cait Reed). Of course I picked up tunes from other people outside of lessons too, so the average may have been a tad more, but that’s a comfortable pace.

And to Kate, re: taking the tunes with ya ‘cause no one else has learned ‘em - yeah. I know the feeling. Kinda makes me wonder what the point is sometimes, running a session, trying to help all the newbies as they stumble haltingly thru their tunes, never getting to play anything really new or different. Thousands of tunes waiting to be played, all at your fingertips, and you have to slog thru just One More Time….

Re: learning tunes…..

…slog thru -insert-tired-tune-here- just One More Time…

It’s weird. I think the greatest joy comes from playing with another, someone equally enthusiastic about the music. But really, it’s all such a personal thing anyway, we’re all at different points on our path, so you’ll never find true "equals" to play with. So you just have to get used to the idea of playing your favorite stuff alone, solo. Anyone you come across who joins in is just a pleasant surprise, a diversion from the norm.

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Howard, you must not be going to the right sessions if you can’t find enthusiastic "equals" to play your thousands of tunes with.

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Re: learning tunes…..

Yes, but some are more equal than others and my/your "thousands of tunes" may still not be the same as everyone elses. :-)
Still, I agree with you Andee. You have to sometimes actively seek different sessions if you want to meet like minded players. I’m quite pleased though if someone knows or starts one of the less usual tunes I’ve learned or will join in if I start one.

John

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I learn most of my tunes through osmosis, hearing them repeatedly over the course of weeks and months and years, and then they’re just there, under my fingers and coming out when I least expect it. There’s always a steady flow of such tunes, and it’s up to them which ones get played on any given day or in any given week. So I can’t say how many new tunes I learn every week, but it seems like 20 to 30 are always floating on my radar screen.

At our little rendezvous in Cody this spring, some of us sat down and swapped tunes, phrase by phrase. I picked up 5 tunes in one day that way, plus 3 or 4 more on the fly during the full-on session. Again, it helped that I already had echoes of most of these tunes in my head, so they weren’t completely unfamiliar.

Some people have prodigious appetites for new tunes. I got to play with David Grisman once, just for kicks and grins in the show room at Flatiron mandolins. Mike Marshall was with him, and Mark O’Connor had just joined the band, replacing Tony Rice. But Mark didn’t come down to the shop that day, and we asked why. Grisman explained that O’Connor was resting up, after having learned 50 (that’s not a typo) Grisman tunes (not the simplest of music) the night before. Not only had Mark learned the 50 tunes, but he’d nailed all of Tony Rice’s recorded guitar breaks, added his own, *and* worked up some fiddle stuff for most of them as well. All by ear. All ready to go at the next day’s gig.

If I ever tried that, my brains would run out my ears like a strawberry-banana smoothie….

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Re: learning tunes…..

For us play-by-ear gits, you don’t actually have to play them to learn new tunes. I can hear a tune somewhere and think yes, I like that, then at a later date, hear someone else play it and I can join in as I have heard it before.

Re: learning tunes…..

I’ve heard people say that Geoff, and I’m not saying you can’t, but my experience has been that whenever someone claims to have that ability — the proof has never been in the pudding when I hear them apply it. Granted, it would be nice to be able to do that, and I suppose it’s possible, but could we possibly be fooling ourselves when we make that claim?

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Yes, Will, there aren’t many of that calibre around! That’s for sure! (Bluegrass Big Boy Geniuses and all that)!

Jim

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Well, I suppose it’s one thing joining in on a tune you’ve heard when someone else is leading, (easy enough to play the bits you know and miss out the bits you don’t), but it’s a different story when you have to lead off with that tune. It is for me, anyway, although I usually pick it up reasonable quickly. How much I like it determines whether I’ll take the time to learn it properly.

Jim

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I learn tunes as they strike me that they have to be learned. Sometimes that’s naturally (Wow, what’s that tune, I have to play it!), and sometimes less naturally (ok, wedding gig in two weeks, and they have requested Kusnacht for the bride’s dance…).

But John Carr was talking last session, and reminded me that it’s not always necessary to "make every fecking tune a fecking masterpiece, you know". (BTW, he was quoting someone else, John generally doesn’t swear much.) Sometimes they’re just fine as something you play with everybody else now and again.

Oh dear, I guess I’m not saying anything particularly original, I think John J has already said it and Big Dave agreed with it, and… :)

Re: learning tunes…..

Well, in case you didnt guess, i am at the end of a frantic tune crunching……I dunno why iam like that but I get on jags. (no i am not manic or stoned or imbalanced or anything, i just get on jags.)So I discovered the "Most Requested List" of tunes in this website and decided to be sure I knew the top 100 tunes. By "know" I meant be capable of recalling and leading them at a session, and the reason I wanted to do this was because I wanted to be helpful at our lurching session, where I was a newcomer. The regulars there were entrnched in the habit of flying at tunes like a house on fire and then stopping abruptly. It bothered me a lot so I thought to meeself, well meebee I kin be of service, and help knit things together a bit. I began attaching tunes, that i thought were common, to the tail of tunes that had just played, but ended up lonely and alone, playing and hoping someone would join, or at least try……So then I found your website and thought. hm.ok I will simply learn all the common tunes…….hence my posts about Collections and Lists and what not over the last few months

It interests me to know what is the first tune on the faves list (click Members then choose the Tunebook tab)of this website that you dont know? hint: the first four tunes listed are Drowsie, Kesh BFly and Banshee……

My first "dont know" was Glascow Hpip, then Congress Reel

I would love to post a discussion/survey of local faves…..like.. what is "the most well worn tune in Edinburgh? In Dublin? In New York City? in Sydney Aus? Would this be good thread? Has it been done?

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The trouble with all the tunes I don’t know is that the vast majority of them are either crap, or too simmilar to the ones I already know. It’s rare that I come across a tune that I think is worth learning, as rare as one a month.

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Well - I’m still fairly new at the music (especially if we are talking the 21year rule) So there are still so many tunes to learn. And I like a lot of the new tunes floating around at the moment so theres always new ones for me to learn. So I go through phases - I was kinda hoping one would strike me now as Willie is on in 4 and a half weeks (yaaayyy!!!) and my friends are all mad keen players and last time I was a Willie week I sat there like a wally all night and played only a couple of sets…and that was cause my friends were trying to be nice by playing tunes they knew that I could play. So I wanted to learn heaps of my friends tunes this month. But this is *not* the productive month apparently- Ive learnt about 5 tunes in the last couple of weeks. Sometimes i’ll learn about 10 in a week and then I could go a couple of weeks without even picking up the fiddle. It just depends on my mood, work etc etc
I have to say - the kind of tunes that I like and that I play in no way resemble the favourite list on this site.

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Re: learning tunes…..

Fat chance! You still haven’t bothered learning any of the tunes I play :-)

Re: learning tunes…..

…and I’ve learnt lots of yours. So when are you gonna learn one of mine?

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Dow - C’mon - the tunes you play are really difficult tunes to learn. Sorry - but I will try I promise!

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Re: learning tunes…..

Sometimes I think I learn too many tunes to be able to concentrate on playing each one to perfection. The problem is not learning new tunes, because the more you learn the easier it is to learn a new tune. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the nice feeling of being able to play a tune we did not think we knew. The tune just seeps inside of you, whether via a session, or simply listening to a record. Then you find you can play the tune straight off. For me it’s finding enough time to practise each one thoroughly which is the problem.

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Re: learning tunes on the hoof

Seriously, with a mixture of musical gift, luck and knowledge of the idiom, it is possible to accurately play along with a tune you have never heard before. It is more predicting what is coming next and with a bit of the above and a very short time delay, you can do it. And if you have heard the tune before, you are on to a winner as you have a very good idea of what it is going to do.
I picked it up training for aural exams - listen to a bar of music and write it down, gradually working up to being able to memorise 4 bars at a time. Obviously, you also have to be able to play what is in your head.

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Geoff Geoff Geoff… Playing along with tunes you’ve never heard before eh. I will only believe that if I see it, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s a trail of victims in this pursuit. I have sat next to people who believe they can do this, and I usually end up having to move to a chair further away if possible.

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I think, like geoff says, the tunes are kind of like vehicules into the style - the more you learn the more you have access to the flow of the medium…there is a quote in the intro of oneills where Krassen describes the difficulty the transcriber had in notating the players tune: . The player would play, the transcriber would write and then read back the tune on his instrument, whereupon the player would get frustrated and say no no and correct the writer by replaying the tune again… this went on and on until it became apparent that the player played it a little differently each time. (…the player in this case was fiddler john Mcfadden and transcriber patsy touhey..)

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If you can hum it, you can play it.
Geoff is mainly right, you can anticipate most tunes when you’re familiar with the idiom, but there will always be the one tune that has some surprises and then you might end up sounding as if you were improvising over the tunes, which can be dreadful to listen to.

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Re: learning tunes…..

Jack, I don’t really believe this works either. ie if they’ve genuinely never heard a tune before. The chances are that they have, even although they can’t remember or, if it’s a very easy tune, they might be able to tackle it the third or fourth time round. So, they should always have heard it before. If not, I agree, they should be listening.
Of course, it’s very possible to play an "unheard" tune from the dots but that is *definitely* not for a session.

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Cath, even with tunes you know and have learned, it often pays to listen the first time round in a strange session just in case there are surprises as you say, eg slightly different settings so you’re right.

Re: learning tunes…..

Very true, and in fact it takes listening to it all once, before I figure out what the tune is at some sessions. I have learnt not to go barging in from the start because of that.

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Re: learning tunes…..

A tune a week! Even worse, a tune a day! I guess it all has to do with experience but so far I have been taking Irish fiddle lessons for 5 months and almost know 6 tunes. Learning the phrases/notes of the tune only takes a few days but getting it to sound like a proper jig, reel, polka, takes a bit more time. When did everyone find themselves learning tunes at a faster pace?

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When I was unemployed, didn’t have a computer, and was really content.

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21, it get easier to learn tunes as you progress. I promise. Plus I had 5 years of learning tunes on harp before I started, so it didn’t take too long to get up to a tune a week.

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Re: learning tunes…..

"before I started fiddle" I meant to say.

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