what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

THIS IS IMPORTANT.

what do you get other than the gratification of achievement?

Or the sad consolation of nobel failior?


Easy/difficult is purely reletive. I base the assertion that diddley music is easy by relating its physicality to other forms of music. Blues is easier, for example, jazz and classical is harder, for example. (there are many other examples, don’t bore us by listing them)


But, you must realise that all I’m refering to here is the physical aspects of this stuff. And this is one of the reasons it’s so brilliant. You can play brilliant music without being technically brilliant.

How brilliant is that ?

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

>How brilliant is that ?

Not very. Try coherent some time, it helps.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

The harder it is the more she likes it !

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Well, if it’s what ya know it would obviously be easier to pick up on…saying it’s hard would be a braggart..

I actually find it more difficult (not easy) b/c it seems less "structured", from an outsiders perspective…for me to say it is "hard’ means that it is hard to amke the music sound easy and natural b/c I did not grow up with it…if I learn a tune and make it sound easy/natural, and I say that it was "hard", it is b/c I (capital) put a lot of effort into the sound to try and make it sound easy…

you guys take all this for granted too often!!

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Perhaps, it would be better if the music was difficult to learn. Then supposed "virtuosos" wouldn’t feel the need to tamper with it so much. They would be too busy learning the basics. :-)

Then again, if it wasn’t simple, I wouldn’t be playing it now and that would be a shame.

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The masters in this tradition are more or less masters of the basic fundamentals that we all strive to learn. One has to have great technique in order to be non-technical. Therefore, in order to make brilliant music, one has to have all sorts of techniques under their belt from which they can pick and choose at a moment’s notice. This is what brilliant musicians do, in any genre. And really, it’s not about showing off your mastered technique, it’s about the tune, and about how you feel it. The technique just allows for the music to come through. To play any music well is difficult, I think.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

"Playing the flute used to be really hard for me… then it got easier — and now it’s really easy." — Told to me by Kevin Crawford one Sunday afternoon in Cruise’s pub, February, 1996.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Right, difficult at first, then becomes easier.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Michael,
The simpler something is, the harder it is to do someting with it. The tin whistle is just a tube with 6 holes in it. Anyone can get a ‘tune’ out of a whistle. An oboe is fiendishly difficult even to get a sound out of. yet, having learned the basics of getting a scale out of each instrument, you will have to do far more to impress on the whistle than on the oboe…
And you know as well as I do that althought there is little to learn intellectually to play ‘diddley’ music, that to play it well is as difficult as any other musical discipline. I play the flute. I hear very few, if any recordings of solo (I don’t mean flute + Guitar/tambourine/fiddle/etc etc) flute playing. Is that because solo flute sounds crap? Is it because it is too easy?

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

That’s ok David, I saw you there busily typing away and I didn’t want to disturb you — so I just went ahead and posted anyway.

Will we add posting to the Yellow Board to your excuses list, David? ;-)

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

I think if you say it’s hard, you get either one or the other: gratification or sad consolation, perhaps even a grade of both simultaneously. If you’re saying there’s no point to going on about how hard diddly music is, I agree with you. But then there’s really no point to going on about how hard anything is right?

I also agree that a person can play brilliant music without being technically sound. I’ve heard some beginners, when given the appropriate tunes, play a mighty fine piece. There is a pretty high bar that is set by our expectations to play like Kevin Burke, or Natalie Mac but truth be told, even the amatures and beginners can hammer out a pretty nice diddly tune. I’m not so sure I would make the same comment about a novice jazz musician.

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Why thank you, David. I always dress for the occasion. Even my socks match my undies.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Luckily, playing brilliant music badly is easy. ;)

Not that I’m arguing with you, Michael — I think by now we have a better understanding of what each other means after the amount of time and effort we’ve put into arguing about it over the years — because you have a point, as it’s no use repeating to yourself how hard something is (you’ll soon give up if you try that too often). Neither, however, does that mean that the "it’s not easy" camp doesn’t have a point, either.

And saying something isn’t easy doesn’t mean that you *are* saying that that something is hard. ;)

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Maybe I’m just a weirdo, but I tend to judge music by how it sounds, not by how hard or "technical" it is to play.

As players we tend to view things from the player’s perspective. This is often a mistake that one must be aware of and guarded against. Music isn’t about the players. It’s about the listeners.

By that standard Bach’s solo cello suite no. 6 is a damn fine piece of music, which also happens to be techncally difficult to play. So is My Darling Asleep, which happens to be so easy to play I think I could teach my cat to do it . Weel May the Keel Row is one of the finest songs ever written. It’s also so dirt simple that I think I could teach my cat to *sing* it.

"what do you get other than the gratification of achievement?"

On the other hand, what the hell is so all fired wrong with that?

I’ve recently had occasion to respond to someone who said "He makes it look easy," with, "For him it is, but he spent years of hard work to make it easy."

I spent last night sitting at the feet of Daryl Anger. He makes it look easy. I have been inspired, but I’m not sure whether it’s inspired to practice my little heart out, or just burn my fiddle. After playing for a few hours today it turns out I may have actually learned something from the experience and may actually be leaning toward practicing my little heart out. Go figure. ( And it turns out he is as enamored of the Bach solo cello suites as I am, and plays "diddly" music based on one, which is just as technically difficult as the source, although he makes it look easy).

I had a friend along (who doesn’t play) who I keep telling I really can’t play. He always looks at me funny when I say that. I told him, "See? *That* is what playing looks and sounds like. I told you I can’t really play.." He looked at me funny. I really can’t figure it, because he’s heard me play, and I really can’t play. Really.

A few nights before that I was at a club’s open mic to promote a gig I have there at the end of the month. I’ll be playing guitar, banjo and whistle, because I really can’t play fiddle. I had to show up early to let them know I’d be there, but I’d be showing up late, because I had to go give a fiddle lesson ( which is really weird, because the student had heard me play and asked me to teach him, and I really can’t play). I had some time to kill before I actually had to go give the lesson, so I found a corner and started playing a bit, quietly, to be warmed up a bit later on. After a while I noticed that the waitress had been standing behind me for quite a while. No accounting for taste.

Anyway, a friend (not the same one as above) came around looking for me after I’d left and the waitress informed him that I’d been there playing some really nice fiddle music and would be back in a while.

I told him that I didn’t understand why people keep saying things like that and looking at me funny when I say I really can’t play, because I really can’t play. Really. He looked at me funny and said, "Has it ever occured to you that they aren’t hearing what you’re hearing?"

Ah! It’s all about the *listener.*

My friend thinks I’ve just handed you a Jack Benny routine, which is really weird, because I really can’t play, and Jack really could.

We’re going to see Kevin Burke together in a few weeks. Niether one of us has seen him live before. I’ll tell him, "See, *that’s* what playing looks and sounds like. I don’t really play." He better not look at me funny.

"I play the flute. I hear very few, if any recordings of solo (I don’t mean flute + Guitar/tambourine/fiddle/etc etc) flute playing."

I really don’t know why this is, although you’ll also hear very few recordings of solo cello/violin, other than the Bach works. Even fewer of solo whistle. I have a friend who plays inprovisational jazz flute. He’s always bugging me to play guitar backup for him and I have to keep telling him I’d only *detract* from the music. Just get the hell up there and play. He refuses to believe me, so maybe the issue here is the flute players themselves. He always manages to say something about how anyone who listens to me can tell I’ve been playing for a long, long time, and he’s only been playing for four years. Maybe he thinks he doesn’t really know how to play or something, which would be really weird, because he sounds just spiffy.

KFG

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Kerri once wrote something to me that made me laugh, mainly because it’s enough true to be funny — in this kind of music, you *earn* the right to say that you’re not very good at this stuff. I love that whole schtick! You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t! That’s one of the reasons I play this stuff. Musical masochism. ;)

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When it comes to hard versus easy pieces its easy to say which songs are tecnically harder to play than other pieces, good technique is definitly a plus if you want to sound good, but I feel technique and technique alone wont cut it. Ive seen lots of players in my day. There are some players who have awesome skill that im not so found of, and there are scracthy "old timers" who in the classical world would barely classify as a beginner. Yet these "old timers" seem to capture the essense of music better than anyone else Ive ever heard play. Its about learning the tecnnique and then using it to your advantage to better express the essence of the music. So yeah in hard versus easy, its all a matter of how your judging the music.

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The reason people like saying it’s hard is that Michael says it’s not, and they don’t agree.

….The music, not the canoe.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Irish melodies are easy, but getting the style and feel isn’t. When you don’t have it — it looks hard. When you do have it — it looks easy. I tell people it’s hard to make it look and sound easy because you have to practice until it is. Talent also helps I suppose, but I’m forced to try it without any.

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I agree with Jack here - it depends on where you’re coming from: I grew up listening to jazz and have spent most of my playing years in jazz and funk bands. Jazz feels ‘easy’ to me because its feel, its patterns and its cadences are ingrained into my brain. I came to Irish music only recently, so it, on the other hand, feels tricky to me: technically I can play the notes and understand the structures but the feel, and most of all the mindset - that it’s the tune that’s important, not the player - are pretty alien to a jazzer. But I guess that’s one of the reasons why I’m fascinated by it - it’s something that looks like it should be easy, but there’s a magical something in it which is pretty tricky to nail properly.

K.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

I saw the buena vista social club there recently on TV and one part had a bunch of kids listening to the pianist (cant remember his name) but he was playing away, and they were clapping along.

Great piece of footage.
But the rythms were so alien to me, I mean it was distinctivly latin, with a lovely groove but it was just flowing out of their hands - they had the natural feel - were born listening to it.
I think this helps.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

That pianist is the coolest man on earth… he’s like 2000 years old and man can he play! If you haven’t seen that rascally band of cubans play you need to. :-D

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

I think it is hard to play good classical music because it naturally puts people to sleep. It’s boring. It’s easier to play a good, lively jig. Call me ignorant, but I have absolutely no interest in "classical" music. (Ruben Gonzalez - now there is some music!! And be-bop jazz!)

The times when I find it necessary to decribe diddley music as difficult are when I am talking to accomplished classical musicians. I find that they often underestimate the music. It is, in fact, difficult for a highly trained classical musician to learn to play diddley music. And it is hard to explain to them the reasons for this. (Actually, I am referring specifically to violinists here. I don’t have experience with other instruments.)

Perhaps an argument for Mr. Gill’s side is that it is easy to approach the music as a beginner. There is an easy first step into diddley music. The further you are up the ladder in another style of music, the more difficult it is to go back down and to take that first step into Irish music.

In summation, it is my opinion that Irish music is not difficult to play, but that it is difficult to play really well.

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

The pianist was Ruben Gonzalez (now dead, unfortunately)

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Sometimes, it sounds very cool when easy tunes are spiced up, like the rakes of mallow for instance. If you flower it up and add variations and just basically experiment, I’ve heard bands make that sound amazing!

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Don’t write off classical music, Jode. Different music styles are appropriate for different music events. Part of the problem in today’s world is that we use music as a backdrop for everything from car sales showrooms to toilets — it can be switched on or off at will. This places music outside of its context in most cases. Having said that, at the same time music can be very appropriately placed as well in movies etc. Classical music serves a completely different purpose than Jazz or ITM; its ability to conjure image and evoke emotion is on a different scale. I’m talking mostly about 20th Century styles here, but the earlier periods always took place with all the musicians present and could only be experienced in that setting since play-back equipment didn’t exist yet. Can you imagine never being able to experience classical music except for when it’s played live? It must have seemed glorious and mind boggling to people back then. A real happening

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

I did see/hear a classical concert at a castle in Germany once, where they played the music of Wagner. It was a visual feast, at the very least. And I did stay awake throughout a Kronos Quartet concert, the only one of my group to do so.

I guess I worded that rather strongly. I do have an interest in it, generally, as I have an interest in most music. But I have always found it lacking in appeal. I do enjoy some Glenn Gould from time to time, but it is never really something that I search out.

I think that I have purchased two classical recordings. One was the Planets, which I bought while taking a "music appreciation" course in school, and the other was music based on hungarian gypsy music. I want to say Sibelius, but I don’t think that was the composer.

And I imagine that if you were to give me a list of some movies with great soundtracks, that I might agree they had an impact. But unfortunately, I can only think of Apocalypse Now and Koyaniskatsi as examples!

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

I studied music as my major in college, and a group of friends and myself who all lived in the same building (it was an un-official frat house I suppose, we called it the Bozo Foundation) anyway, we formed a listening club and would get together and listen to the pieces of music we were studying. We always listened in the dark and I was amazed at the imagery that would be conjured up while doing this. Later, in class, I would think to myself things like, "Oh, he’s talking about the part where the little boy’s beach ball lands on the Egyptian princess’s beach towel."

I guess what I’m saying is that classical music demands a different kind of attention than most others. ITM, for me, is more of a social music. It still has incredible depth and evokes imagery and emotion, but it doesn’t always require the same demand for focused attention. (Except for songs and slow airs etc.) When I first discovered ITM for myself, I thought it was the perfect thinking-man’s party music. Classical music should never be used for parties or played in pubs, but that doesn’t diminish its value.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Me, I studied English Lit, so I dedicate my attentive time (what little I have nowadays) to reading.

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Another music major weighing in:

I think that ITM can demand the same kind of focused attention as classical music, in certain circumstances. For example, a solo performance by a really good traditional musician is going to contain all kinds of subtle touches that informed listeners can really appreciate, although these will go over the head of the uninitiated. To paraphrase that absolute genius Maire ni Chathasaigh, the aesthetic of most periods of classical music and classical musicians in general involves changes that happen on a much larger scale, painting a more monumental picture in broad strokes, while ITM is a miniature art form, incredibly complex and detailed, but on a tiny scale. Maire explains the aesthetic of Irish music as "art that conceals art." Here’s a link to an interview which makes really fascinating reading and she explains this concept in her own words:

http://www.alternatemusicpress.com/features/maire_ni_chathasaigh.html

I totally agree with Jack that while it might be easy to play Irish tunes, it is difficult to play Irish music. Incidentally, I’ve found that people who are really great musicians in other genres, who have a sensitively trained ear, including classical musicians, can hear the complexity of ITM when it is played well and are often very impressed with it. When you get to the point of being able to automatically play with the right style and feel, it really is easy, but getting to that point can take years. What creates the right style and feel can definitely be broken down and defined, but few Irish music teachers tend to do this, and many of them are really aware of how they do it themselves. There is definitely a perception that there is an indefinable "magical something" that creates the right style, and I think this prevents more people from analyzing how to actually do it. Really it has to do with the volume and duration of certain notes relative to others, the tone of certain notes relative to others—some notes function more as pitch, some function more as rhythm. The skilled performer both can do this technically on their instrument and understands how to use it for subtle variations in phrasing and rhythm. I’d say it’s actually more technically difficult to do than to understand, once it is explained. Many people who have a really good ear are likely to pick up on this type of thing over time and figure out how to incorporate it, consciously or unconsciously, which is probably how the vast majority of people who have the right style and feel learned it. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving away the "secrets of the trade" as a teacher, although there are people who disapprovingly paint teaching style in a structured way as just that. I am a very big stickler for style and it really pains me that there is quite a dearth of this in the harp world. But that’s a whole other can of worms…

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

for me classical music is a more personal and serious matter where as fiddle is more social and fun, both are important just for different reasons

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So far, there has been a lot of trying to split what is an Irish tune and what is Irish music. Most people seem to think that while playing Irish tunes may be easy, playing Irish music is hard. You must think beyond asuming that the ridiculously simplisticly notated things you find in this tunes section, or any book, for example, are Irish tunes. They are merely skeletons. You cannot get anywhere near playing Irish music with only these bare bones.

People beleive they agree with me when when they say that playing the tune is easy, but if you only play the skeleton, you are not playing the tune.

The interesting thing, however, is that it’s really not that much harder to play the tune, than it is the skeleton. What transforms the skeleton into the sublime brilliance that we all love, is very very tiny things indeed. Tiny simple things that any one with ears can learn.

So what is diddley music? Nothing more than simple skeletons with tiny simple things to refine them. 

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

and yes, it does boil down to learning by earr

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Ha ha, yes, the art of the minute, as mentioned by the ostritch. But there not many of these things, so they can be acquired quickly

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Michael, your explanation reminds me of the guy who asked the sculpture how he carved an elephant. The sculpture replied, "Easy, I just got a block of stone and carved everything away that didn’t look like an elephant."

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Do you mean that if I think it’s hard, then I must be even worse a player than I think I am?

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Hmmm…personally, as an ITM teacher, I don’t think it’s as simple as learning all your repertoire by ear as the ultimate solution. Obviously style can only be learned by hearing, but I think it’s more about learning by imitation. If you laboriously learn the pitches of a lot of tunes by ear, over the years the concentrated listening may add up to a better understanding of style, but a lot of people new to this don’t have any idea what they’re listening for. If they’re not experienced musicians, it may be unrealistic to expect them to figure it out for themselves. Also, if you need one of those slow-downer tools to get the pitches, a lot of the stylistic stuff is probably going to get obscured.

I’m not arguing for sheet music whatsoever, by the way—although the difference between "by ear" and
"by imitation" can be shown by the example of a person who learns pitches from sheet music, then listens closely to a recording to mimic the exact way the pitches are played. I’m arguing for having a teacher to show you what to listen for, and how to reproduce it, bit by bit. In my mind, "learning by ear" is being able to identify the intervals and pick up the melodies independently, quickly and efficiently. I don’t expect my students to be able to do that without actually teaching them ear training and having them work specifically on it, so in the meantime, I teach by rote and imitation, telling them where the fingers go, which notes, etc.As they get more advanced with ear learning, I play slightly longer passages and let them sort it out. And once they have the basic notes, I explain exactly what I want them to do stylistically, demonstrate, have them copy, over and over again, phrase by phrase. I also have some exercises to develop the technical ability to play groups of notes with different rhythm and accenting, which also helps the ability to hear these different rhythms. I give them sheet music to take home as a memory aid—for those who are totally not interested in reading music, I write out letter names—and I have a system of symbols for accented notes, unaccented notes, etc., so they listen to the recording, notice the things I’ve described, and try to imitate it. I totally agree that there’s no way to learn style without concentrated listening, but it has to be educated listening, and of course, to good source material, which means, solo players, and mostly non-harp!
I’m also very picky about fingerings as this has some control over rhythm and accenting, so I have to show them that and usually write it down so they won’t forget. The advanced students who can pick up tunes by ear really quickly still have to go back and work out good fingerings, with guidance, and then as they polish a tune, if anything seems out of whack I have to listen carefully until I figure out what it is. One wrong accent can screw up the feel of an entire 8-bar phrase.
I’ve found that kids, especially around ages 9-15, pick up style very quickly taught this way, and can apply it to most tunes they play, however they learn them; the more tunes they work on with me picking on the style, more it gets internalized so that they can do it themselves, with only occasional tweaking. For adults, and even younger people who’ve been classically trained, it’s an uphill battle. I think it’s less a question of how much there is to learn, than to learn to be able to apply it consistently, having completely internalized it, and to use it artistically. I would say maybe they could be understood and applied quickly, in a matter of weeks or months for a talented student, but acquired over a longer period, maybe two years or so. And then a lifetime of becoming your own artist…anyway, I’ve gotten really good results teaching this way, so I happen to have a strong opinion that it’s a good way to do it :)

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Case in point for learning by ear: the guitar player I’ve been working with for the last half of dozen years has decided to play banjo. He’s totally obsessed, and works hard at it — but the tunes are already in his head. He’s only been at it for a few months and he already has 70 tunes. He uses abcs as a guide, but I’ve been sending him the versions. I play (that are in his head already.) Anyone who wants to learn this music would be wise to hang around at your local session and listen, and listen to recordings — and I mean listen. If you can do this intensively for a long time before you start learning tunes you’ll be a step up when you start. The abcs should only serve as a reminder of what you already hear in your head.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

David you seem like an amusing fellow. Im curious as to why you dissagree with me so strongly.

As for learning my ear I supposse it something I should work on more. Im very much a paper trained puppy. I thought ostrich feathers had alot of interesting advice on learning by ear. If anyone else has any comments I would love to hear them.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

"Im very much a paper trained puppy."

I have been a paper trained puppy since I was a puppy. Classical stuff. I’ve had a bit of formal training on violin and flute (while very young) and studied piano with composer Esta Blood. I’ll have to learn my ABCs if I’m going to hang out around here because it seems people actually talk in that stuff. To me it’s machine language. I talk in dots. Even when I sing. Never did learn my "do re mi". I know the dots.

I try not to let it hurt my playing. I turned to self teaching in my teens and it saved my musical life. (Although I never have fully recovered from my piano training. Something else to work on)

I once saw an ad in our local arts rag:

"Lead guirtarist wanted. No Berklee grads need apply."

And I know exactly what they were talking about, even though I use the Berklee method with my own students and insist that anyone who studies with me learns to read at least moderately well, even if they *think* all they want to do is strum three chords. The Berklee School of Music turns out some of the finest techcial players in the world, but they have a reputation for not being able to play *music*, and take away their dots and they’re lost. They can’t talk or think in *anything* but dots.

And these are jazz players, jazz is supposed to be inherently improvisational and was invented by people who, by and large, didn’t know their dots.

Sompin’ funnie’s goin’ on.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m working with an accordian player who has won sight reading championships, but is so good at sight reading that she hasn’t memorized simple songs she’s been playing every day for decades. We’re talking simple stuff here, like Moonglow. The dots go in her eyes, *through* her brain and out her fingers. Take aways her dots and she’s lost.

This is not a well rounded musician, this is a cripple.

So is a musician without a well trained ear. It takes two good legs to stand. If all you know is dots you’re using them for a crutch and it baffles me how anyone could even consider themselves a musician without an ablility to learn by ear. Music is *hearing,* not twiddling your fingers about.

In his day Bach was not particularly noted as a composer. He *was* quite famous though…for his *ear.*

That’s why he was such a fine composer.

KFG

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Why can’t I write a short post, just once??????

hi David,

Yes, I don’t think we’re really disagreeing at all! I am interested, though, in the distinction that you make between "born and bred" students and ones who don’t have the "freebies." What makes the music "hardwired"? Having listening exposure to it from babyhood on? Or is it more than that? I’m not sure how much I believe in the possibility of it being hardwired; I’ve taught people from all kinds of backgrounds, and some have great natural ability to get their mind around it with little or no prior exposure, while others may have been exposed from a young age but have a lot of trouble replicating what’s in their head.
I think there may be those who with enough exposure might become great artists without ever taking a lesson, but that even they could benefit a lot from lessons in their early stages so that they are not having to reinvent the wheel. They may get there in any case, but there may be a way to help them get there more quickly and with a greater understanding of what they’re doing and why. I see what I do as efficient, more efficient than simply exposing someone for years and waiting for it to sink in. The beauty of it is that a student of any background can benefit from it. It’s not about spoon-feeding; I do a lot of asking for observations about what’s going on in the music, trying to prod them in the right direction, which leads them to the right conclusions, but more quickly than if no one was asking the questions. Those who’ve been listening to it for years sometimes have to learn to listen in a whole new way to apply it to the harp, which is an interesting phenomenon; some people who have a rather impressive traditional style on other instruments tend to play the harp completely differently, even when they become quite accomplished. I really don’t know why this is! And if being able to do it well on another instrument isn’t a freebie, I don’t know what is!
I think it has to do with the fact that most who learn through the "freebie" route don’t tend to analyze much what they do, which I think can be a handicap in certain circumstances—for example, trying to teach, especially a workshop where many people may be wanting the details on "how do you do that!" or adjudicating a competition. Or, in Maire ni Chathasaigh’s case, inventing a traditional style for the harp that really sounded like traditional music by replicating the effects of other instruments. Some people become analytical about it after the fact, which they then apply to teaching or adjudicating or whatever, and some never feel the need or inclination at all.
In general, in my experience with harpers, people who come from families where parents and siblings play may feel more comfortable playing with others or playing in public, and may even have a lot of repertoire, either because they have motivation to learn it to play with their families, or someone is there to help them more often than once a week for an hour, but interestingly, I have not noticed that it helps their style. In fact listening to people at fleadhanna I have sometimes thought, "Geez, how can their parent/sibling/aunt/uncle hear them playing like that all the time and never say anything? I couldn’t have got away with that for 5 minutes without someone saying something!!" It probably depends on the family, but I guess the parents or whoever the other musicians in the family are just assume that it’s some harp thing they don’t understand, and that’s what they send their kid to the harp teacher for. And it definitely seems common for even families that are very musical to send the kid to a professional teacher, again at least for the harp.

I also think the proof is in the pudding as far as how people actually play. In the end, it’s what comes out of your instrument that matters, and your ability to be ultimately self-sufficient as a musician, not how you got there. And it’s very cool to see people of all backgrounds working so hard and succeeding at this.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Sightreading championships? What’s the point? Why not have a competition for reciting the Iliad in under 5 minutes?

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Yeah, you wouldn’t have caught Carolan and Rory Dall doing sight -reading championships!

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Quote:
"The dots go in her eyes, *through* her brain and out her fingers. Take aways her dots and she’s lost.

This is not a well rounded musician, this is a cripple."
End quote.

Actually that’s a pianola - take away the roll with the little holes in and it can play nothing. Perhaps its a pianola-accordian.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

The nice thing about folk music is that you can find a wide range of things to play and sing, from easy to hard. There is room for everyone. The key is, whatever level you are at, to play well. A simple tune played well is better music than a tough tune played poorly.
AL Brown

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Well said AL.

Another time we covered something very like this topic a while back, someone came up with something like this: "The best praise is when someone says ‘what a lovely tune’ not when someone says what a good player you are".

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

"Sightreading championships? What’s the point?"

Beats hell out of me, but then I’m not sure what the point of All Ireland Fiddle Championships are either. People are funny and wil make a competition out of anything.

"Why not have a competition for reciting the Iliad in under 5 minutes?"

They used to have something like that you know. They still do in cultures which maintain an oral tradition. In ITM it has always been "How many tunes does he know," and later on "How fast can he play ‘em" was added.

Comes to the same damned thing.

"Actually that’s a pianola"

Touche, mon ami.

"The nice thing about folk music is that you can find a wide range of things to play and sing, from easy to hard. There is room for everyone."

But the same is true of classical, and there were certain composers who taught who actually went out of their way to write pieces for all ablilities.

I suppose my biggest problem with the premise of this thread is the idea that classical is hard. I don’t think it’s particularly harder than any other form of music.

"The best praise is when someone says ‘what a lovely tune’ not when someone says what a good player you are".

Oh man, I must be hot sh*t then.

KFG

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Was it Michael that has been espousing this "irish music is not hard" theory for awhile? There was another thread where someone commented that you should not let the music seem difficult when you are trying to learn a piece of music.

I have been using that thought recently as a mental tool to break down barriers in learning. There will often be segments of tunes that I cannot catch right away, and I will put them aside and learn the rest of the tune, coming back later to pick those "difficult" portions apart. This setting aside sometimes makes these portions very difficult to learn, precisely because I have set them aside and identified them as "difficult".

Recently, I have been trying to tell myself that it is not difficult and that I can learn the whole tune. I try to prevent myself from skipping over "difficult" parts and to address them as a part of the tune. I am beginning to succeed with this.

So, this bit of progress I owe to thesession.org. Thank you!

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

That, I think, is what Michael is saying, Jode. He uses "easy" as a shorthand for that, or at least that’s what I’ve eventually come away with. "Easy" is an attitude, is part of his theory.

Unfortunately, "easy" is not always seen in that particular way, as Michael has found to his consternation. Or, I imagine it’s consternation. It could just be that he likes needling people. ;)

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

On the topic of playing by ear vs. dots, I used to take classical piano lessons. It was kind of boring so I eventually quit and took up the guitar, then the fiddle, harp, hammered dulcimer, etc. with no formal training. A few pointers from friends here and there is all. I have no trouble improvising, accompanying, or picking up tunes by ear (nothing a bit more practice couldn’t resolve anyway) on everything BUT the piano. I can’t play the piano to save my live, and this after 7 years of rigorous training. So I’m thinking maybe there’s a flaw in the classical approach, if the objective of musical training is to make a person comfortable enough with music that one day s/he might get to the point where s/he can honestly say "This is easy!" From a classical perspective, it just got harder and harder and harder until I gave up altogether (because, really, where’s the pay-off?) From an informal / folk / roots / trad perspective I feel music comes as naturally as breathing.

I’m trying to conquer my fear and loathing of the piano, but it’s taking me longer to un-train myself from the memorization and sheet-music obsession I learned to associate with that particular instrument than it has taken me to learn how to play four other instruments well enough to be paid for it from time to time.

I guess I have no answers for the "how to learn by ear" topic, but in my personal experience, active listening pays off in the end, and sheet music should (as jack says) be thought of as a reminder of tunes that you already know, not the ultimate authority on how your music ought to be played. If you’re having trouble with a sheet-music dependence, throw it away or lock it up or something and force yourself to start learning from people.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Your piano experience sounds like so many others’ I know of in the classical discipline Kerri, where people (usually kids) seem to be taught that the instrument is a wayward creature, almost an enemy, which must be thoroughly subdued until one day you might be able to get it to produce a tune.

In traditional music it is far more common (in my experience) to find that someone is encouraged to pick up an instrument and start off by trying to play a tune - one that you already know, and can hum/whistle. After that it’s only a matter of learning more tunes, and getting better at playing them. Sure - this can be a lifetime’s pursuit - but it’s a lifetime of pleasure, not a fight.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

I must say I agreee with whoever it was that made the classical piano comment. I played classical violin for like 10 years. I can;t say I was very good after teen years. so yeah I could pick up the darn thing and make some somewhat decent noises come out of it, but I wasn;t a musician. I "found" folk music and my life was changed. I honestly think I would have ended up quitting violin/fiddle if it hadn;t been for my "discovery" of folk music. I put quotes on the "found" and "discovery" because I have grown up around folk music. I have always loved it to. I guess since it was associated with my parents and my parents were considered "uncool" I wasn;t willing to take the plunge and admit that I loved folk music while all my friends were into the "cool" music. Im glad I was finnally able to grow up. It has made all the difference in my life. Sorry for the long ramble. It seemed relavant to the discussion in my brain. Unlike classical folk seems to be more about music (how ironic) like I think what turned me off from classical music was not the music itself, cause you have to admit bach was a genius. but the approach. It was always so focused on anal peculiarities on how to play music. There was no room left for self expression.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

the problem with the ostritches asertion that having a teacher is important (almost vital) is that she has a vested intersest in the assertion. If she admited that the music is easy, she’d be out of a job.

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

*shrug* Everything is easy once you know how to do it. It’s just getting to the "knowing how to do it" that’s hard. ;)

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

I don’t know she’s a girl, but I’d like to bet.

And yes, everything is easy once you know how. But diddley music is special, in that it’s easy once you hear how.¥

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Only if you 1) know your instrument and how to play it before trying to do both at the same time, and 2) if you know how to listen well enough right away. Otherwise, you have to learn to listen at the same time you’re learning everything else, and there’s nothing easy about that. ;)

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

But Zina, what do YOU get out of saying that it’s hard? The Ostritch gets pupils out of it, long term pupils, but what do you get?

I’ll tell you what I get after realising that it’s easy. (it’s true, by the way, that I once thought it was hard).

When I thought it was hard I got frustration, hurdles, dissapointment, cramps. I lusted after atainment, I idolised, I missunderstood and I really wasn’t any good.

And when I realised it was easy the very first thing I lost was the frustration. I began to enjoy it for what it really is. Simple melodies, played simply, with simple style and no baggage. And, most importantly, I didn’t care whether I was any good.

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Well, I don’t personally really get anything out of saying that it’s either hard or easy, Michael. "Hard" and "easy" to me are just two words with a myriad of possible definitions. Whether something is "hard" or "easy" just means that I’ve either learned to do it or I haven’t. What’s important to me personally is: am I enjoying this process, or am I not? If I am, then it’s all good. If I’m not, then I need to consider a couple of different things:

1) Do I just need to back away from this and have a rest before I come back with renewed enthusiasm?

2) If I don’t think I’m ever going to enjoy whatever process it is I’m examining, do I still need to be doing it?

"Hard" to me is not a particularly negative word, you see. I enjoy learning how to do hard things. I do hard things all the time, because either I enjoy them or because I have to or because I need to. I don’t think there’s actually anything wrong with something being hard. I teach hard stuff to other people all the time, and one of the things I teach them is, "when you know how to do this, it won’t be hard anymore."

But then, I like challenges, and I hate being bored. Me bored is not a pretty thing for innocent bystanders. I can certainly understand, though, that some people see "hard" as something negative. I can also understand that just because something is hard or easy doesn’t mean that it’s hard or easy for someone else, and their definition of those things is just as valid as mine.

Unless they’re in my way. *smirk*

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

I always love what you write Zina, because you are always right. Of course hard/easy is relative and it’s all about the process. But what I’m trying stir in this thread is the attidude to it (apart from the FACT that it is easy of course, compared to other forms of "proffessional" music).

I enjoy hard stuff too. I enjoy doing hard things in my work. But diddley is not work, diddley is fun. Diddley is not music created, sutained or invigorated by professionals. Diddley, by definition, is the amateures domain, and that’s why I love it

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Heh. Well, that’s why i never answered what I got out of "easy/hard" until you asked me directly, because I knew it wasn’t germane to your point.

The reason I still chime in on this discussion when it comes round again is that it’s sometimes hard for people who haven’t been round here for a dog’s age to understand that you, our current champion Session Curmudgeon, aren’t putting down anyone or anything by saying that it’s "easy" — to a lot of people, by saying something that they do and sometimes struggle with is "easy" is rather dismissive. I mean, c’mon, how many years did it take before I figured out what it was you were actually meaning? (So, maybe I’m just dim. *smirk*)

Anyway, doing this stuff well can be hard indeed, but it is still fun, and it’s always fun if you let it be, hard or easy. It’s just that sometimes "fun" looks an awful lot like hard work, which not everyone enjoys. :)

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

zina, you give me credit where credit is not due. I am putting people down. I put everyone down who takes pride in achieving what they think is hard in this stuff. Music is not about achievement, it’s about the expression of who you are, not what you want to be.

I want to dismiss people who are satisfied wth their achievment. And I desperatly wan to put people down who struggle to better their music

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

LOL — Three swats on the nose with the newspaper of justice, you.

Music is what it is — to some people it’s about expressing who you are, and to other people that’s just a load of airy fairy crap, it’s just a bunch of notes pleasantly strung together. It’s all good, because everybody needs different things out of their lives.

To me personally, it’s about a lot of different things all at once, not just one thing, and I’ve no use for expressing myself through the stuff, because I do that in other ways — mainly by writing. Mainly I play with other people for the sheer joy of making something fun and pleasant and good together that doesn’t take any words, which can be easily misunderstood.

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Aha! Michael’s Apologia at last!
Trevor

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

I am having trouble following the end of this conversation. Michael, what do you mean by:

"Diddley is not music created, sutained or invigorated by professionals. Diddley, by definition, is the amateures domain, and that’s why I love it"

Do you have another word to describe the irish jigs and reels that Tommy Peoples, Seamus Creagh or other inspiring professional musicians play?

And what is this about "achievement"? Could not one seek to express the music that they have inside them? Wouldn’t one want to work torward that achievement?

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Jode, you can call it ITM if you want. But diddley descibes it better. As for defining it, do you not agree that it is music for amateures?

And as for acheivment. I’m dissing people who do it for achievement sake. And there’s planty of them.

And Zina, when you say things like, "the sheer joy of making something fun and pleasant and good together that doesn’t take any words" I feel it’s worth while hanging around here after all.a

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Writing a reply to another thread I realised that I don’t struggle to "better my music", I struggle to give myself the freedom to be able to make the music that I hear in my head. Perhaps, Michael, you might just have that freedom without having struggled at all, but personally I find it hard.

I’m probably retarded by your standards, but I don’t know of any objective criterion for hard vs. easy - if I say "easy" and you say "hard", aren’t we both as right as each other.

I’m not saying that it’s always hard to play - when playing a tune I love, it feels almost trivially easy; but just that there are always things I’d like to be able to do, but can’t - because they’re too hard for me!

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Michael, I do agree that the spirit of the music is more in the amateure aspects - the (non-paid) sessions, the parties, the craic. For instance, there is a great band that visits here and I enjoy the party/session afterwards much more than the concert! I enjoy interacting with them and playing music with them.

But that is not to say that I do not get inspired by professional performances.

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Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Rog, I think you’ve got more or less why I personally don’t bother too much with worrying about whether something’s hard or easy, but whether I’m enjoying the process or not. Who cares if something is hard or easy? I enjoy both things. (Well, okay, some stuff I don’t enjoy, hard OR easy.) The trouble comes when you let "hard" and/or "easy" get in your way.

Well, Michael, it IS why I play this stuff — but I also enjoy the fact that I’ve *achieved* getting here, which took some hard work. As Jode points out, "achievement" isn’t necessarily about medals and trophies or competition, formal or informal.

I think I’ve mentioned before about Jane, one of our dancing students who competed for a while. Jane loved competing, but she was incredibly nervous in front of the adjudicators; so nervous about it, in fact, that she’d always forget her first step half-way through it. She didn’t actually care about winning medals, but after a few competitions, what she strove for was to remember the damn steps — she refused to give up until she could do it. The first time she actually made it through her two steps without forgetting them from nervousness, you’d have thought she had won at Worlds from the smile lighting up her face — and we celebrated her achievement right along with her.

She stopped competing soon after, because that was all she wanted — to prove to herself that she could do it. I was so pleased and happy for her, and we told her she should be as proud of herself as she could be.

Why would anyone want to take that sense of achievement, of accomplishment, away from anyone?

But I’m glad that you think it’s worth hanging round here, virtually speaking. ;)

Re: what do you get out of saying it’s hard?

Jode, it seems you were doing then what I am doing now.
Asking a question, receiving lots of answers, but not
the one direct answer. & Zina, I love you. Great comments!
Thanks for letting us eavesdrop.

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