I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

I was quite stuck -well I wouldn’t say I tried that hard tbh; I just thought I would quickly look it up this morning- on just a certain bar of a tune I was listening to from a youtube recording where the notes were not adding up so I did the unthinkable and looked it up on the notes here and it cleared things up in a couple of seconds.

I feel bad now but the recording was just a mush at that point (it is a clear recording so I take responsibility for not figuring it out) as it turns out the issue with the original was in I think because there is a triplet on the last bar into the next and I wasn’t hearing the last couple of notes of previous bar so missing them out causing me to play not enough notes.

On the other hand, the other week I spent about 3+ hours on a similar case just on a couple of bars where the notes were not adding up and I figured it out eventually (only from the audio) by tapping the foot double time (1-3) rather than the usual (1-5).

So I don’t know which is ‘better’. I’m sure I would figure it out from the audio alone eventually with this one. I certainly would hate to be a slave to having to look things up -and never usually need to- but if it is there then should you jump to it or not? I suppose it is a question of time management but the more important concern maybe long term gain - in that the less you rely on notes to solve your problems the better even if it takes ages to figure out without them as you are building that muscle. So each time you do it by the notes you are robbing yourself of a learning opportunity.

I will note that I use the notes like in the case of O Neils’ when there is not audio available, but that is a different case because without the notes you wouldn’t learn the tune at all!

I do remember years ago a tutor (of irish specifically for the record) said ‘sometimes you just can’t get a couple of notes and have to look it up’ which I think she was referring to herself as well so at least it is not just the plebeians. She was young though (but well known on the trad scene as a rising star), so surely going to be more apt to use all modern means rather than a stalwart of the old ways.

I better have a shower to cleanse myself mentally.

What about y’all? Do you absolutely never refer to the notes or sometimes? Where is the line you draw when you will look it up?

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

no more than 3 Hail Mary’s as far as I’m concerned…

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Whatever works.

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Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

LOL I just realized all bets are off in regards to my OP anyway in that I remembered that I had pitch shifted the original as it was played on a flat whistle so the notes don’t even correspond to the written ones anyway.

Haha, so they are not relevant anyway. I mean I would have been just as well tapping it out to find the answer of the lost notes as I would have been reading them.

All part of the learning process 🙂.

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

I mean, I don’t think any of us would think twice about leaning over and going, hey, what’s that twiddly bit in the second part?

Developing skills is good but the skills aren’t the point, the tunes are.

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Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Sometimes those recordings sound mushy because the players screwed up or forgot notes and covered up (or recovered) quickly. they might make their mistakes in a different place 2nd or 3rd time around, or they may play it differently each time. Sometimes everyone playing does it differently and never the same twice, so you have to make up what is implied by the rest of the tune. Don’t feel dirty, but don’t accept the dots as "correct", either.

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Absolutely amazing that ITM makes musicians feel guilty about reading.

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

So much of ITM seems to be built around a powerful desire for/fantasy of community. I mean I’d love to spend months in Clare learning tunes but I live in the US and my daughter wants to go to college in three years. Yeah, I’m extremely inauthentic. I struggle on.

It’s a lovely ideal of community, for sure

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Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

ITM doesn’t make people feel guilty about reading music, it’s the people who refuse to/aren’t able to recognise the difference between learning the idioms of the music and learning a tune once you know the idioms. The former doesn’t work out well by reading on its own while the latter is fine by reading.

Jim

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Spot on, Jim.

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Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

@justjim Even for those ‘pro’ recitals (which is what this recording was - a comhaltas one)? I doubt those level of players make mistakes? Not noticeable gaffs at least.

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Y’know, I’m not too bad at playing what I think I remember of what I think I heard and I might even remember what it was tomorrow. Or just as often play something way off. So yeah I never have seen a reason for feeling guilty about being literate. (Note: I still can’t play from the score at tempo, still working at that). Still it helps to remember that almost all of the scores you find on-line or in books are somebody’s transcription of what they think they heard and often quite simplified. No different really than what you get from hearing a tune. Think of writing hornpipes in straight 8th notes, or hearing a tune played by 3 other players. If that’s not a moving target I can’t say what is. In short, look up whatever you need without apology, and listen to hear how it might sound. You don’t have to make any claim that one is "better". Personally I’m way too old to use up hours trying to figure something out that was either already made clear on a score or, conversely, poorly transcribed from something clearly played.

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

"on a certain bar of a tune the notes were not adding up…

I wasn’t hearing the last couple of notes of previous bar so missing them out causing me to play not enough notes…

…a couple of bars where the notes were not adding up…"

I don’t understand what is being described.

But sure, I will be trying to figure out a tune from a recording I made at a session that’s poor sound quality and there will be sections that are not clear- sometimes as you say the various players are playing clashing versions so there’s a jumble of notes here and there.

That’s what’s great about this site! there will be several different settings of the tune so I can sort it.

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Someone’s going to get a spanking!

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

I say this: you ARE dirty and you HAVE sinned. It’s a relief, isn’t it? Welcome to the club!

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

I agree with Kenny : "whatever works".

I didn’t really understand the OP very well, but I do think that "use your ears" is only any good when you can accurately hear what you are listening to. If there’s any doubt about which notes are being played (because you can’t actually hear them properly), then by all means look up the tune.

Obviously the qualifier is if a written version of the tune exists. It’s a bummer if it doesn’t.

Some of the recordings on Youtube are pretty poor quality, audio-wise. I have a little desktop Behringer 9-band graphic equaliser which does help in homing in on a particular instrument. Sometimes!

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

It much surprises me that on a site dedicated to the dots so many members are steadfastly against the dots. Sheet music is practical and efficient. Why spend hours trying to get a few bars, and many more to get a tune, when one can go to the sheet music, have the entire tune and get on with learning and playing it? This is of course the entire goal. Embrace the dots! Celebrate the sheet!

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Equally, if I am expected to play or learn a tune from the dots, I will sometimes also "cheat" and seek out a recording somewhere. Either on an album or video. Also, of course, I might make a live recording under appropriate circumstances.

Whichever way we do it, it’s important to remember that a recording and/or a particular setting of the dots may not be exactly the same in any case. So, while it all helps, we shouldn’t necessarily be ruled by either what we read or hear.

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Ah, sod it. Instead of going over the whole "dots" debate yet again, can I suggest that we all collectively forgive the OP for his / her momentary lapse ? Amen.

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Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Johnny Jay, it’s not cheating, it’s smart. One can play almost any series of notes a lot of different ways. Most especially since the scores we have are really stripped down to the point of being disinteresting. Hearing them played solves a lot. If I may here’s an example. Last summer the Old Time/Contra group I play bass with played outside every Tuesday evening (distanced and masked, we’re not stupid). A neighbor who none of us knew was an accomplished violinist joined in and we gave him the music. He quite quickly and accurately played everything, note for note, at tempo. He was great at it. The only thing was that he didn’t play the tune, he couldn’t play the lift. Once he figured out that he needed to listen first, then play, things got a lot better. Conversely I hear a lot of players (not all for sure) who learn by ear only, never really play the tune, rather have a, sometimes, pretty good approximation of it. One I know calls it "folk processing" in his defense.

Point is we really ought to get past the "one is better than the other" mentality, the "mine is better than yours" arguments and play tunes in good spirit. If I enjoyed hearing a tune should I care about how it was learned? Then we can get to the serious issue of which end is the proper end from which to break an egg.

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Sometimes, you just have to use the right tool for the job. For me, the right tool is usually my ears, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t use other tools to help me get familiar with a tune. I might end up using multiple recordings and multiple different written settings of a tune before I feel like I have a fairly full grasp on what the tune is trying to say. And from there, it’s a matter of learning to express it eloquently, which can often stray a bit from what any one source tells me.

Part of the reason people rail against sheet music here is that it is more rigid than a good player, who will be playing the tune differently each time through, bringing a different perspective to the story told by the tune each time… Sheet music is a good tool to have in your arsenal, but if you rely on it to the point that it becomes a crutch, then you’re likely (but not necessarily) missing out on a lot that can be done to bring the tunes to life.

So you’re forgiven, and no penance necessary. 😉

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Some phrases are tricky, for various reasons. Speed can be one, some musicians vary their playing all the time, some groups don’t play the same notes on their instruments, then again people have their own versions.

I remember learning The Windmill reel many years ago. I think I even listened to it at half speed (on tape, for those of you who remember that format). I played measure 5 of the B part as dA~A2 fAaA. Norbeck has it as dA~A2 eAaA, and when I planned a set with someone, they played dA~A2 gAaA. Not that it’s the end of the world.

Wasn’t there a post some years ago about a certain recording with a certain famous band, where each of the three musicians played a different key note in a certain spot? (G, A and B if memory serves.)

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Rev, my friend, you play. tell your story, wonderfully. It’s a pleasure to play with you. I absolutely agree that the good players color the story as they tell it. I will still disagree that sheet music is somehow more rigid. Rigidity, mindless dedication to the "one way’ is in the player, the learner. Rigidity isn’t sourced in the method. I know without a doubt (matter of fact I’ve witnessed) that you’ve heard someone say "well it wasn’t bad but it’s not the way Coleman (or Molloy, or Barney, or whoever) did it". What could imply rigidity of thought more than that? If a learner can’t get past the rather simple score on the page, how is that different from slavishly copying what was done before or the often simplified version taught him? Is going back to hear how Coleman (et. al.) played a figure less of a crutch? Maybe we ought to kick this discussion up a notch to the real problem … the failure of imagination, not enough crayons. Don’t you think that a good player can/would play that tune with perspective no matter it came to him? By the way and as you have seen I’m sure, this issue isn’t limited to ITM, it’s universal to, well, just about everything humans do. My wife and her sister once argued (uhm, discussed) the proper way to make cornbread even though Mom taught them both at the same time! I’ll bet that every wannabe guitar God tried to copy Eddie, note for note. Those who moved past had a chance. Point is, if the source of tune is the dot or the ear … or from Mom or Betty Crocker … it’s still only one step past irrelevant. Dot or ear, I don’t believe one or the other has even the slightest edge. Somehow it got in my head and I’ll take it from here. Experience tells me that you do the same and we’re better for it.

So in good humor, no one should lose sleep for not reading music to at least some degree. It’s not a serious character flaw, easily overlooked.

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

I don’t see any issue with referring to the sheet music or a recording to remember how part of a tune goes.

I can read pretty much anything you put in front of me having started originally as a classical flute player at age 6 and only switched over to traditional Irish music in the 1990s.

That being said, I learn all my tunes exclusively by ear because that’s what works best for me in the long term to really own the tunes.

I do also have many tune books I can refer to if I need to remember how a tune starts. Here’s an ABC cheat sheet I put together a while ago with the first few notes about 1600 tunes:

http://michaeleskin.com/cheatsheet.txt

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

I have always hated that term ‘cheat sheet’ (it implies doing something wrong by having an efficient shorthand list) but ye that is a good idea! I mean to have the first few notes next to the names. I have recently been trying to collect all the tunes together to one file (of reels at least for now) from the different folders on my hard drive; though certainly my repertoire is a drop in the ocean compared to your behemoth.

I used to think I will have a folder for session tunes, a folder for rarer o neils’ tunes and a folder for each random video I learn from youtube. No no no! I ended up getting in a tangle forgetting which I have learned from which I hadn’t. Better to have them all in one place, or at least one list somewhere with them all then the audio/notes to refer to elsewhere, but your ‘cheat sheet’ idea is better to not have to dig around as, like you, and most I suppose, I usually only need to recall the first few notes to get me going.

Funny coincidence I scrolled to the bottom and saw the youngest daughter which is one of the O Neill’s I had been learning recently.

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Michael The Whistler, I typically do not spend hours to get a few bars when listening to the vast majority of trad tunes. Often it’s less time (or the same amount of time) listening than it would be using sheet music

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Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

AB- I suspect the skill of learning by ear is a skill one develops as one becomes more experienced with music. For me, a nascent player, and endeavoring on my own, sheet music is practical and very efficient.

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Michael, I suspect you have tunes in your head which you have because you’ve heard them.
Learning trad tunes by ear begins with very little skill and is usually not more difficult than learning to read.
Either method takes time to improve.

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Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Something no one else has mentioned. Maybe the most important part of learning by ear is growing an intimate relationship with your instrument. That means that when you hear a note you instinctively know where it is, without a thought … like singing or whistling. Even better is to "feel" the interval. In truth that intimacy is harder to develop than to know where to put your fingers when you see the dot. The skill is most useful when you hear that note in your head when playing alone or developing a harmony (or most often for me, a bass line). Without it you’re less likely to play without the perspective, the color, that our Reverend correctly mentions. And that leads to rigid playing.

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Some people seem to be almost going so far as to say there is little value in learning by ear at all since it all ends up the same in the end as long as you know the notes; I certainly wouldn’t agree with that. I started not knowing how to play by ear and only learned it after the first few years of playing and having done so it has given me a much more intuitive, organic and ‘tactile’ experience of playing.

So I would still say learning to play by ear is essential; the only thing in question for me is when it is ok to take a peek at the notes once you already had that solid base of aural skill*, but I feel vindicated now knowing the majority would take a cheeky glance if the occasion arose.

*hehe unfortunate double entendre, I had an embarrassing moment once, saying that a friend is going to give us ‘maximum aural pleasure’ as he was moving he stereo speakers in his room; they looked at me askance, to say the least

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

I have an intimate relationship with my instrument every time I perform.

Still confused why I won’t be asked back to play at the retirement home.

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

I wish I could read the dots well enough to iron out the wrinkles.

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Should start a movement "More wrinkles less dots"

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

— Don’t you think that a good player can/would play that tune with perspective no matter it came to him?

Absolutely, Ross! But then that player wouldn’t be "using sheet music as a crutch"… By crutch, I mean someone who feels like the only way they can learn a tune is by reading it. Or even more blatantly, a person who can’t play a tune without the sheet music in view.

But there’s a secondary concern, which has been voiced many times in the forums here (including references to it in this thread), and that is that a lot of people feel like they don’t retain the tunes as well when they learn by reading compared to learning by ear. That’s a broad generalization, and there are exceptions to it, I’m sure. But just the fact that it has been brought up many times means to me that there is still some fundamental differences in how our brains process different kinds of learning. To me, it seems to point to the tune information being stored differently in the brain depending on the way it was learned.

So I suggest that people use the tools at their disposal (without feeling dirty about it), as long as they understand that the tools are a means to an end, and that what is important is the end product — being able to play the tunes eloquently.

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

Aye Pete, we think much alike. I just don’t believe that a score is any less of a crutch than a recording, live performance, or the way it was taught. My notion is (without any objectivity) that many, even most of us fall back to " the way ??? played it" at least as often as we lean on the score. Even the oversimplified string of notes that many call a score is transcribed from somebody’s notion of the way ??? played it. We even use slow down software to get it "right". I suspect this is often the case with the self-taught. I suspect (again, no real science here) a fairly high correlation between an absence of a theoretical background and reliance on a crutch of some kind, either dots or ear. Certainly I’d agree that some have better instincts, or more time on the job, that lets them play with more flexibility. Note: I’ll inject the thought that over-reliance on theory can be an obstacle too but that’s a whole different discussion. I truly believe the real culprit leading to rigidity is a failure of imagination. I’ll even admit to it myself and it shows up, more or less, depending on the instrument and/or genre I’m playing at the moment. Frankly I’m fairly tight to the way I learned a tune when I play banjo, less so than when I play flute, and "free to soar" when I play bass. Maybe the important thing to take away is that what you call telling the story in a meaningful, exciting, and personal way is the important thing and maybe all the arguing over learning methods is what I like to call "bustin’ up the quiet"!

Re: I was ‘stuck’ on a particular part of a reel and looked it up on here, I feel dirty and like I have sinned

A score is not a crutch. Sheet music is not a crutch. It may be used as a crutch but this is not the "intended" use of notated music. I know, people lean on it just the same. Take it away & they might just fall over. My point is calling something a crutch does not change all the things which one can do with said crutch. You can miss out on alot of things by not using different ways of "looking" at music (not just a string of dots), never transcribing a tune, not sight singing a tune, etc.

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