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How we learn/ or play
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eoj02
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From reading on here and taking my own different learning techniques, I've come to realize that there are multiple methods to learning instruments.  But all seem to revolve around a couple of ideas.

1.  Reading sheet music.  This can be tricky.  It seams people go about this in two different ways. 

One being shapes.  My step father plays piano and he doesn't translate the sheet into notes.  He thinks in shapes.  After reading a reply to one of Barry's posts, I realized that people do that on fiddle as well by corrolating the sheet to a position on the neck.

The othe being notes, you see the note on the sheet and find that note on the neck.  That seems to be the way I find it.

2.  Ear.  learning by the sound of what you hear and find that same sound on the fiddle.  This seems to make it easier to adapt when jamming, but can be harder to play complex pieces.

3.  Tab's.  Well, this is how learned how to play the guitar so that is what I thought would be easier on fiddle.  It isn't for me.  This is learning by a numbering system based on finger and string position.  You learn no theory this way, but can sort of learn songs.

 

Now, the only reason I put this on here is because I find myself moving from one to the other on the fiddle (excluding the tabs).  It actually makes it confusing.  I completely understood Barry's ABA example of notes but someone else needed the sheet music. 

So that brought to mind, what method does everyone use to learn???

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Picklefish
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There are only three learning methods for humans, auditory, sight and mechanical. I am a mechanical learner primarily and I learn best by doing with others, mimicry.

Now for the side tangent:  As we used to say during my "train the trainer" days is See it, say it, do it. There is actually a study out that shows most information can be absorbed rapidly by following that model. So, If you wanna learn theory, see it, say it, play it. Start with an all for strings book and learn away. As for me, I played trombone in jh/sh marching bands so I have always been able to read sheet music. I have not found anyone that can actually teach me how to play this danged fiddle. In fact, I know what I have to do to get better and I just dont do it. Aint that a kick in the pants. So far FM's advice about thumb posistion and hand posistion is the most clever and workable basis for learning where the notes are. I practice intonation with a clip on tuner so now I am trying to learn where my hand is in relation to the hand posistions and what is in tune. Learning by ear is very difficult and frustrating for me cause I want to know the exact notes! I cannot accept any free form musical styles for this reason.

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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dionysia
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Oooohhhhh, there is supposed to be a method to my madness!

I absolutely can NOT play by ear [maybe someday, but not now].

I usually try to run through the fingering a few times from the sheet music with no regard to the rhythm. Once my fingers have an idea of what will be expected of them, I try to play the song.

 

If I know how it should sound, it helps a lot. I will play trying to match the soundtrack in my head. If I don't know how it should sound I aim for something that sounds goodish. I may even try to find some videos or some such to help me out, because those little flags on the dots don't translate into my brain very well. Sometimes I don't really care how it is supposed to sound and I just play the pattern of notes however I like.

I am definitely not a "musician" calibre player.roflBut that doesn't bother me.

As I have said elsewhere, I am only aiming to please myself.

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ftufc
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I am EXACTLY there with you D.  It's much easier for me to read sheet music than tab or by ear.  Although one of the joys for me is to pick something out that I know in my head; so I can find the song, but I have difficulty listening to some else play and then follow along; I just don't have it yet.

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Kevin M.
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I find my biggest problem is using a metronome. If I am playing I can't here it do to concentrating on playing. I have found the same with trying to play along with someone.  If they aren't playing I can usually match the tempo but not with them playing along.

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coolpinkone
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In practice (lessons) I usually play best with my teacher very slowly bowing with me.  Her violin makes a bigga bigga sound.  I like that.... and I take cues from it.  It helps set the temp for me ....after that I seem to have it more when she  plays the piano...

Now last week was a WHOLE different ball game.  I bit the dust completely.

Tomorrow is a new day.... we shall she ...I will know by her eyes If I should bail on SF for Sunday...

Metronome....I hope to get one and learn right... I hope to learn to count and play... and use click tracks...but right now... I am working on... all those other things....

All in all... I am still in a very much honeymoon stage with it all.

 

heartToni

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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DanielB
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I'm not big on metronomes.  If you have a nice vintage acoustic one, maybe they are nice or something.  But I prefer to use a click track instead.

Audacity has a version for all the major computer operating systems (Windows, Mac and Linux) and it is free.  I forget if you have to also download plugins (also free) to get the option to generate click tracks or if it is included with the default install.  But either way, the price is right. 

Why click tracks?  Well, if you ever do any recording, you usually end up dealing with them anyway, so I figure it is best to just skip a step on the learning curve and use them instead of a metronome.  Also, click tracks can do time signatures.  Like instead of just "tick tick tick tick", they can do "TICK tick tick" when you are working on something in a 3/4 for example.  That can actually help a lot with some pieces.  And if you might want to record a bit someday or participate in some of the group projects, then click tracks are already home turf and you won't need to get used to them. 

Then you get yourself a little mp3 player and burn the click tracks to mp3s and load up the player so you can use it anywhere instead of just when you are near your computer.  A good assortment of tempos and time signatures and you can just scroll down on the player to whatever you need for practice at a given moment.

 

I will confess that I can certainly play from score on violin if I take it a bit slow, since I don't practice that skill.  Tab or something like Barry's notation, even easier.  But I focus mostly on learning violin/fiddle by ear.  The reason is that instruments where I put a strong focus on learning to play from written score first, I feel that when I compose or improvise on them, it comes out sounding more "safe" and predictable.  That isn't necessarily always bad or anything, but it isn't what I want for violin.  Instruments that I learned to play by ear at least first, I notice I tend to compose and improvise with some wider tonal excursions and I tend to make more interesting use of tension/release and less common modes and scales.  And it just feels like there is a bit more of "me" in the playing.

That's pretty subjective, and different people have different goals, so I don't claim it is "better".   It is just more what I personally want.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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SaraO
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Electronic metronomes can also adjust for time signatures. I use them all the time.

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NoirVelours
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Metronome: my foot tapping, really, but learning the time signature is a must and the challenge lies there for me.

Music sheet all the way, even if I compose something I write it down before I forget it! For me this note placed there on the staff means I place my finger there on the violin. If you ask me what's the name of the note in english I have to look at it, say the name of the string when count up. If you tell me play an A minor I'm lost, I'll tell you to show me the music sheet haha.

Of course I end up knowing them by heart but for learning I really feel safe and comfy with my sheets. pink-violin-girl

"It can sing like a bird, it can cry like a human being, it can be very angry, it can be all that humans are" Maxim Vengerov

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eoj02
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I was just curious what ya'all thought.  I rarely have time to practice.  So, I spend all week playing a song in my head.  Trying to figure out the fingering and whatnot.  I might figure out the guitar parts first so I have a better idea where to begin.  Then when I finally get time to play, adjust when necessary.  I don't have anything to play a track loud enough to hear, so it is mostly in my head.  My wife would rather it was all in my head, but she'll live.

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Mad_Wed
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Kevin M. said
I find my biggest problem is using a metronome. If I am playing I can't here it do to concentrating on playing. I have found the same with trying to play along with someone.  If they aren't playing I can usually match the tempo but not with them playing along.

Yep!  Every time when i have to play with accompaniment happends something weird. I know the piece and i totally forget it when the other part is been played: fingering, timing, dynamics - all seems to be like the first time surprised So i have to play it over and over and learn with the accompaniment the same amount of time, like i never learnt the piece without it LOL!

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ftufc
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Hi have the same problem, you know what it is for me Naska; if I just focus on what I'm playing, I can do it fine, but the purpose [for me] of accompaniment is to hear the whole piece.  And I know that most musicians can do both,,,, but just not there yet.

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KindaScratchy
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I learn by reading the sheet music, but so far have found memorizing helpful, too, so that I can take my eyes off the music for a bit to watch my bowing technique.

BTW, I've played the guitar for years but never bought into the tab approach. Seems to me that if you're going to learn a system of symbols, why not just learn to read music?

dunno

That said, with guitar music, I do find the little chord charts above the music helpful. So, I've wondered if similar charts could be used for double stops on fiddle music. The problem with that idea, of course is that it would be too hard to cram in charts for every double stop in a fast piece. Guitar chords changes are usually spread out, so that's not a problem with guitar music.

So, I guess I need to take my own advice regarding tabs and just buckle down and learn to read the double stops on the fly.

violin-studentdazed

When the work's all done and the sun's settin' low,

I pull out my fiddle and I rosin up the bow.

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Fiddlerman
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June 29, 2012 - 10:22 pm
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Well, I am the only site with a violin metronome 😉
Just happens to be my violin too. WOW WOW WEE WOW!!!!

http://fiddlerman.com/fiddle-l.....metronome/

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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DanielB
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KindaScratchy said
 

BTW, I've played the guitar for years but never bought into the tab approach. Seems to me that if you're going to learn a system of symbols, why not just learn to read music?

Well, with guitar tablature, there is one significant advantage I can think of.  It makes it simple to show where a particular note is to be played on the fretboard.  For example, if you run into a note that needs to be played at 329.63 Hz, well that is the open "high E" string on a guitar (assuming modern "standard" tuning of A4=440).  But you can also get that note on a guitar by playing the B string at the 5th fret, the G string at the 9th fret, the D string at the 14th fret, the A string at the 19th fret, or the low E string at the 24th fret (if you have a guitar with that many frets).  Which one does the person who wrote down the bit of music want you to play?  Standard musical notation won't help you with that, whereas with guitar tab it is obvious. Is that actually important?  Well, it can be.  If you are trying to learn how to play a specific bit of music the way some particular player does it, it can be very useful.  Some bits can be quite easy played in one area of the fretboard but much harder when played in another.  There also is some difference in the timbre of the note if it is played at different spots on strings of different thickness, even though the pitch can be the same.

Also, guitar tab doesn't need or use key signatures.  At least for people who didn't take music theory or haven't already learned another instrument, that can be nice.  It is a system of notation that some people find more intuitive for guitar.   

Like all notation systems (including standard notation) it has drawbacks as well.  For example, it is harder to show timing, and music theory note relationships may be harder to see than they would be in standard notation or some other notation systems.

But as a specialized notation system developed for a single instrument, it isn't too bad.  Some guitarists feel it makes more sense to use a specialized notation system developed for their instrument than to use the one some think of as "standard", which was developed from a way of showing children how to sing a tune by pointing at fingers and spaces between fingers and sort of duct taped together with assorted fixes over time to allow it to sort of be used for many instruments but not really be particularly good for any of them.  Darn those innovators and developers. LOL

Tab for fiddle or violin.. I have to confess I don't know that system well, but it looks less useful to me than guitar tab.  While it would work great for showing someone how to play a melody or even a doublestop in "first position", I don't understand how it shows the notes in positions further up the neck.  It also has the same problem as guitar tab for being more awkward when it comes to showing the timing/duration of notes.  But it could be used to show a person who knows their "basic first position fingerings" (or has tapes installed on their fingerboard) how to play a bit of music with little or no time spent learning how to read music notation, and for that alone it is probably worth the maybe 30 seconds it takes to learn the basics of fiddle tab.  So long as the doublestop is in the first position, it would be pretty easy to write in fiddle tab so far as I understand the system

So yeah, I would agree it is still just learning a set of symbols, but symbols that are specific to the playing possibilities of a given instrument can be worth the bother of learning.  Most of us who learned standard notation tend to find other systems a bit awkward or confusing, and it can seem like it would be simpler for everyone to just learn "standard notation".  But the standard notation is just as arbitrary as any other notation system and has it's own drawbacks.  It is just more familiar to some of us.  But that may be kind of like the folks that expect everyone everywhere in the world to just learn to speak English. 

roflol

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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TerryT
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ftufc said

Hi have the same problem, you know what it is for me Naska; if I just focus on what I'm playing, I can do it fine, but the purpose [for me] of accompaniment is to hear the whole piece.  And I know that most musicians can do both,,,, but just not there yet.

Was strange, but this morning I was going thru Air on the G string with my teacher who was playing piano along with me.
I was struggling with some of my timing and listening to the piano didn't help because there are some intricate, almost off-beat piano parts.

Julie suggested that I look at the whole accompaniment on the music sheet rather than listening and once I could keep one eye on my music and one eye on the piano piece, it all seemed to fall into place.
Wierd, I was almost only semi-conscious of my music (maybe coz I have played the piece now quite a few times) and could concentrate on what the piano was doing in relation to my timing.

Hang in there Fred, coz once it happens, it's like in martial arts where you don't know what your body has done until after you've done it.
Zen and music almost seem to go hand in hand!!

I was born with nothing,
and to my surprise I still have most of it left!

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KindaScratchy
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@DanielB: OK, you made a very compelling case for tablature. In fact, your argument also supports chord charts, which I like. Since chords have more than one fingering, it's not enough to just indicate the chord by letter above the staff.

The chart will tell you the way that the composer intended it to be played, or how the artist plays it.

I just got out my latest copy of Acoustic Guitar magazine to look again at some tab music and confirmed that it just confuses me. The tab chart looks too much like a music staff. I can see where it might be helpful to check fingerings but I can't imagine reading it on the fly.

dazed

I haven't seen violin tablature yet. Will have to check that out.

When the work's all done and the sun's settin' low,

I pull out my fiddle and I rosin up the bow.

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DanielB
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I would also guess you didn't start with the equivalent of "Twinkle Twinkle" in the tab either, KindaScratchy.  wink  Any notation system takes some time to get used to. 

For guitar, I can read tab a little faster than standard notation.  The bass clef confused me for a bit when I was first learning it, though because I kept forgetting it wasn't a treble clef.   Point of trivia, tab isn't anything new.  Lute tab was around at least as far back as the 1500s, not sure on the earliest known for guitar. 

Fiddle tab, I ran across a week or two after getting my violin.  Elan Chalford's site.  I had a pleasant hour or so playing through a folder of xmas music and some other bits, and then haven't much looked at it since. 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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cpiasminc
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I have to admit that one of the reasons the staff notation never worked for me is the fact that I'm a numerical thinker.  Give me raw data, equations, patterns, etc. and I'll understand it more easily than some representation.

When I first played Carnatic music in front of fellow students in my elementary school days, the music teacher there was completely puzzled by the look of the notation I had in my notebook. --

|| s r g m | P  | g m ||
|| P    ;     | P   |   ;   ||
|| g m p d | n d | p m ||
|| g m p m | m g | r s ||

|| S'    n d  | N    | d p ||
|| D    p m | P    | M   ||
|| g m p d | n d  | p m ||
|| g m p m | m g | r s ||

She was like, "How the hell do you read something like that?!?!", when it was perfectly logical to me.  Everything is written out, and although it's intervallic notation (i.e, it's all relative pitches), that makes sense for a system of music that has no absolute pitches in the first place.  But even when I've composed Western music, I've rarely ever used the standard notation because it just struck me as overtly convoluted, and gives the impression of what we engineers call "code rot" -- something that was limited in its capacity to handle and represent the full range of needs, and rather than going through a redesign, was merely retrofitted over time with all sorts of additional ligatures and overall confusing the system making it more complex, and therefore fragile.

I always relied more either on the tracker format where the notes are written out and spaced in a column layout, or the piano roll that is common to most MIDI software out there.  Again, in either case, I'm getting something that is more explicit -- the fact that the note is a C# rather than a C-natural is right there in the very spot you're looking at rather than way over at the left...  the fact that it's a triplet is given by the spacing or the length of the bar, and not by some braces.  The fact that the octave is known simply by a number by the note rather than looking at which clef is on the staff and so on.

Sure, the very informal system of notation in Carnatic (like what I showed above) is extremely limited as well, but it doesn't make any effort to go beyond those limits to represent something more complicated or detailed -- it is only there to serve as a memory guide, and you're supposed to figure the rest out by ear.  Which I've gotten somewhat better at with practice, but it takes some time.

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DanielB
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I don't think I had ever seen Carnatic notation before, cpiasminc.  Tracker/MOD notation though, yes.  But it has been years since I did anything with that and I doubted anyone here would ever have heard of it. 

Back when I was taking music theory, we spent a few classes discussing assorted notation systems.  I was taught that any notation system is valid, so long as you can set down notes in some way that allows them to be played back from what was set down.  They can be classed from "personal" where they were only ever intended for a single composer to be able to record their ideas for their own later reference/use to "universal" where they are intended to be used by any and all instruments.  Since "universal" is an ideal more than a practical possibility, all such notation systems (including modern western notation) fall quite a ways short of being equally useful for all instruments and types of music.  Specialized systems like tablature, where they are intended for just one instrument or type of instrument, would fall somewhere between the personal and universal extremes in attempts to provide useful notation systems.

But I think it matters far less what notation system a person uses than that they play and what of themselves they can bring into the performance of a musical idea or a song.

I find the concept of absolute pitch in music, even western music, to be at least somewhat debatable.  Even what is used as a tuning reference pitch is largely arbitrary and changes with fashion.  The often mentioned "A 440 standard" is far from standard even in orchestral use, where I would tend to think deviation from traditional standards would be the most discouraged.  But beyond that, vibrato, glissando and portamento are all used even in "classical" music, and within the usual popular notation system there is little indication of exactly what pitch would be played at a given instant when any of those are indicated.  It may be possible with a determined effort, to play violin "dead on" with no variation in intonation from the 12 semitones, but I don't think many people would actually want to listen to it.  It would sound rather "dead" and lacking in expression.  I feel it is the stylistic variations of pitch and timing that might be too small to be practical to notate in any system that give music much of the distinctive feel or swing that make it enjoyable to play or hear.

In my personal playing, I usually prefer to avoid use of notation systems as much as possible and rely on ear and memory, or inspiration when improvising.  When learning a new song, I would rather hear it played by someone who understands the piece and can play it well.  I memorize what I can of that and then work from there.

I *can* learn at least simple pieces of music by playing them through from written score (in any notation system I am familiar enough with), but I don't expect to really be able to catch the right feel from that. 

It was mentioned in the OP that learning music by ear may be harder with complex pieces.  I would say it depends on how trained/practised one's ear is.  I do more by ear than some folks, and I think it likely that I can retain more of a song by hearing it than most people might by looking at the score.  It would depend on how one was judging learning or playing.  It is quite possible that someone very good at playing from score could sound better than me on the first pass through playing a piece of music neither of us has met before.  In that regard they could likely do better.  But which of us could play it again the next day from memory without having immediately heard it or seen the score?  That would be retention, and I think I am a bit above average with that. 

I have known plenty of musicians over the year who didn't or couldn't read any sort of notation, but who could play for hours or in some cases probably even days before having to repeat anything in their repertoire.  Some of them played very well!

But in the end, I don't think it matters much.  The important thing isn't how one plays or learns, so much as that one does play and learn.  However you get your notes is fine by me, I'd listen to you and play with you anyway.  LOL

I have known musicians that played by ear/memory that looked down on people that played from written score and I have known those that would consider someone less of a musician if they couldn't read whatever notation system was currently popular in whatever clique.  I personally consider both viewpoints a bit silly.  Life is too short for such worries.

"For well you know that it's a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder."

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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