Is the skill of learning a tune by ear a must?
I would appreciate input on this question. I am in no way disputing the idea that learning by ear is the best way to learn a tune. But I have not learned this skill yet for a couple of reasons:
1) I’ve only taken up Irish music and my instrument (banjo) recently and I’m >60 years of age (I do have previous musical experience). I spend a lot of time working on technique and repertoire, and don’t know if I want to spend the time figuring out how to learn by ear (I have a pretty lousy ear), let alone the extra time needed to learn each new tune. And given my age, though I’m not at the "don’t buy green bananas" point, I must face the (slightly ghoulish) fact that I have a limited number of playing years left. I’d rather spend that time on technique and repertoire.
2) I’ve read somewhere somebody claim that they could tell just by listening to a person play whether that person had learned the tune by ear or by sheet music. I think that claim is an exaggeration, but the point is well taken: that one is much more likely to develop a feel for the tune and music by learning it by ear. I don’t doubt this. But when I do learn tune using sheet music, I try to immerse myself in the tune by close listening to recordings of several versions of the tune, and by having them on in the background when doing other things (the osmosis factor) - not learning by ear but using my ears a lot in conjunction with the sheet music. In this way I feel I can still get a pretty good read on the feel of the tune.
So there you have it. I could still be convinced to take the time to learn the skill of learning by ear. Does anyone feel strongly that it’s got to be done to become a good player? or do some agree that the approach I’m taking is more reasonable? Thanks.