Your mind on music: the curious path of internalizing irish tunes

Your mind on music: the curious path of internalizing irish tunes

I’ve been playing Irish music for about 18 years now. Started about age 40.. No previous fiddle or classical experience, etc. Self- taught for most part with comhaltas workshops thrown in here and there. From the start, following Matt cranitch ‘s advice in the orange book, I tried to get “ correct” fiddle bowing patterns under the fingers while avoiding sight reading dots but instead learning aurally ….I don’t sight read at all really. But, curiosly, it has only been in last two years or so that I have now noticed two things. 1. Learning tunes ( broken down bit by bit) has become much easier ( use tape recorder and dig pitch slow down until tune up to speed) and 2… suddenly I find I can actually ‘play’ or rehearse a tune in my head —- while driving the car , say— without need of notation or background recording or whatever ( once I’ve learned tune by ear).

Until now I could never do that….what has changed? I’m curious.

Before I could only play a tune if fiddle were in my hands using motor memory. It now that’s not necessary.

Curious!

Thanks for any insights from you professional teachers out there.

Re: Your mind on music: the curious path of internalizing irish tunes

“ but now that’s not necessary “ meant to write…

Re: Your mind on music: the curious path of internalizing irish tunes

At some point it all becomes a part of your neural network. I’ve had students tell me the same thing, albeit a bit sooner. But that’s just because they had training in areas you haven’t, doing this as a solo act. ;)

Actually, ‘playing’ a tune out in your head is known to be almost as good a practice technique as the real thing. The more clear you are in your mind re: sound, fingerings so on, the more it mimics actual play and is very effective to improving your skill set. That network has to grow and it’s quite complex!

Good for you!
Cheers, Diane

Re: Your mind on music: the curious path of internalizing irish tunes

Thanks Diane! Yes, although I don’t visualize the dots while doing this or bowing patterns ( like figure 8, say) I have to say it seems a good way to get the tune embedded …

Another thing I’ve found is if you’re playing tune sets and you just learned two new tunes (this week I got Bank of Ireland + Woman of the House for instance) it definitely helps with smoothing the transition between tunes…or at least gets that switch in tunes more set in your mind.

Also find it v helpful with intonation….as I think you hear the ‘ correct ‘ pitch….which in turn allows you to bend it in performance if you so choose and as the whim takes you….all of which I think adds depth and colour to trad music…as it should! 🙂

Thinking Irish tunes

I think it was Yehudi Menuhin who called it "silent practice."

Re: Your mind on music: the curious path of internalizing irish tunes

I was taught to sing or mentally hear a tune in my head before picking my fiddle up. It’s so much easier to learn a tune if you can already hear it in your head.
Also, the more tunes you learn, the more familiar the patterns become and when you hear a new tune, you recognise parts of it that you can instantly play.
But I still get surprised by some tunes that I learn almost instantaneously and others that I struggle for months to memorise!

Re: Your mind on music: the curious path of internalizing irish tunes

I believe it was Oliver Sachs who asserted that our aural brain area is one of the areas of the brain that continues to grow brain cells and add new connections throughout our lives. I think through exercise you just reached a critical mass or jumping off point.

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Re: Your mind on music: the curious path of internalizing irish tunes

@postie thanks! I was wondering if Sachs had had any insight into that. That was an interesting book too btw.

Re: Your mind on music: the curious path of internalizing irish tunes

https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=95336672

Music On The Mind: Oliver Sacks’ ‘Musicophilia’

"… you can look at a brain and say that’s probably the brain of a musician because musical training and involvement of music enlarges various parts of the brain, the corpus callosum, the great band which goes between the two cerebral hemispheres, parts of the auditory cortex, parts of the cerebellum, parts of the frontal lobe cortex. There are striking changes which can occur within a year or within a single year of musical training. And these are changes which are really visible to the naked eye, at least if one knows where to look. So the power of music to alter the brain is very very striking. "

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Re: Your mind on music: the curious path of internalizing irish tunes

single best advice i ever got "Learn the tunes you know"

Re: Your mind on music: the curious path of internalizing irish tunes

Going back to OP’s point about practising while driving, concertinists (especially English, where bellows direction is unimportant) can practise fingerings on the steering wheel, too. True to some extent on some other instruments.

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Re: Your mind on music: the curious path of internalizing irish tunes

What I have noticed is that there are many paths to learn a tune, but the one that works best for me is to have the tune go from the earbones to the headbone to the fingerbones. I always try to play the tune at the session, get a note in here, a note in there, fill in the rest as I can get them. But it’s that moment when the the tune is in my head and I feel that I can now pick up my instrument and teach it to my fingers, that’s the moment when it’s becoming mine. And weirdly it seems to feel like it goes into a different part of my brain than the part of my brain that passively consumes music and can remember it or sing to it. It’s different when it’s finally ready to come out my fingers, stored in a different way, in a different place in my head.