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By Ear
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dashrem
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May 7, 2012 - 1:40 am
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I played Piano for many years and was never able to play a song I heard our liked without finding sheet music. However , after only couple of weeks on the violin I am able to play by ear. I tink the difference is that I have been doing nothing but scales since I got my violin. Something I never did on the piano.

Sorry, meant to post this in "playing the violin"

I can't read music, but I understand it perfectly.

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Joe
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I hear ya....I think perhaps it has something to do with the perfect fifths to which the standard violin strings are tuned.  Seems more natural than other string instruments with which I am familiar.  What do you think?

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dashrem
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May 7, 2012 - 4:06 am
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I don't fully understand what the perfect fifth is. I can hear it in the open strings when iam tuning, but that's about it I know drooling

I can't read music, but I understand it perfectly.

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Joe
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dashrem said
I don't fully understand what the perfect fifth is. I can hear it in the open strings when iam tuning, but that's about it I know drooling

 

The four strings are tuned in so-called perfect fifths. a perfect fifth is an interval of 5 diatonic degrees, counting from the first note (prime) in a scale.

Fourth string open then with digits; g a b c d (5).  Then third string open and with digits - d e f g a (5).  Second string; a b c d e (5).  Then first string: e f g a b

You see that the fourth digit hits the same note as the next open string down. Thats why you can play the first 4 notes of Twinkle-Twinkle on any two adjacent strings.

Unless I missed something, I think that covers it.

dancing

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DanielB
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May 7, 2012 - 6:16 am
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I started out playing by ear as a kid.  In grade school music classes, I could do the silly exercises they gave us in music classes of spelling out words like "EGG" with written notes and etc.  But they didn't do enough with connecting it with sounds for it to be meaningful to me.  It was just written and may as well have been a math puzzle or word game. 

In 4th grade, we got a taste of playing an instrument, these things called "flutophones" which were sort of like a plastic recorder with a clarinet-like bell.  For the second half of that year we played those and got to go down to the music room and be taught by the school's instrumental music teacher.  I sort of was having more fun just playing with the instrument and working out by ear any tune I heard.  The teacher would always play any new piece through when he introduced it to us, and I'd listen carefully and memorize it, then practice it at home.  That worked until almost the end of the year when he caught me during a test by putting a simple written melody in front of me that I didn't know.  I got a stern talk about the evils of playing by ear and how I had good potential, but would never amount to anything musically unless I learned to read music.  That and my family not really being able to afford me taking up a band instrument turned me kind of sour on written music at the time. 

But I kept playing anything I could get ahold of, and I got a chord organ one year for xmas and an acoustic guitar another year and a little early monophonic synth and eventually got myself an electric guitar and amp, and taught myself to play them by ear.  I could follow chord charts and could sort of read music, but the notes were like using a decoder ring or something.  Credit where it is due, that very same music teacher was very supportive even though I was not taking any of his classes.  The topic of reading music came up from time to time, but I mostly dodged it.

I went on to play in bar bands and etc for some years, but eventually I did take "adult piano" in college and finally learned to sight-read.  It was good because I feel it really helped lock in the concepts of the theory classes I was taking at the time and I was finally no longer "music illiterate".  LOL  I consider standard notation as useful for a sort of universal language among musicians of the western hemisphere.  But I still play mostly by ear and mostly learn music by rote memorization, since I feel I put more of my emotion into a piece if I can play it off the top of my head by heart rather than reading it.  I do not consider standard musical notation as particularly intuitive for many instruments, though.  For instruments with enharmonic note possibilities like string instruments, I prefer tablature with some sort of time notations for reading and writing.  It just seems more sensible to me, but your mileage may vary.  I ran across some "fiddle tab" the other day, and that took no time at all to get used to and have some fun with.

I spent a good chunk of my life thinking of playing by ear as a "bad thing" musically, until I learned to sight read.  But now if people ask if I can read music I'd usually say "Yeah, but I try not to let it interfere with my playing.."

"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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dashrem
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May 7, 2012 - 7:01 am
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thumbs-up Epic story. I can read music well enough to get by, but haven't been able to play by ear until I got my violin. I've composed many songs, never once used sheet music, I either recorded into a midi creating program straight from my keyboard or used a roll for entering notes/durations.

I can't read music, but I understand it perfectly.

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DanielB
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Midi is great, dashrem.  I also it for composing much of the time.  Or if there isn't any actual need for any sort of score, I'll often just record multitrack.  But I'm glad to be able to scribble out notes if I have an idea when I'm not near a computer or recording machine.  It is also helpful when working with another musician who picks things up quicker from the written. 

I'm only in my 3rd week with violin, but I would agree with you that there's something about it that makes playing by ear easier than many other instruments.  They have such an incredible range of sound for such a small and sensible little instrument.  Great fun to play.

"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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NoirVelours
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I never was good for playing by ear and I'm sure memorizng a piece is not that at all. With the violin I'm rediscovering the basics I learned in primary school on the recorder plus learning new stuff. A music sheet secures me in knowing I'm playing the right notes with the right melody and makes me confident that any song is available to play. Like reading the instruction manual of a new gadget 😀 there are always some features you didn't know existed. Once the original is known there is then place for creativity!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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DanielB
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May 7, 2012 - 10:22 am
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I think that whether one is playing by ear or from sheet music doesn't matter too much in most cases.  The important thing is that we all play!

"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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NoirVelours
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Of course byt it cause a problem when youmeet a fiddler and want him to teach you a tune... got the music sheet sir? I would be stared down lol or laughed at.

"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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springer
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I can't play by ear (you lucky guys) I must have the sheet music, but it sure helps having music to help with the hard (most) parts.party

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DanielB
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LOL  Life is so funny sometimes.  For a good bit of my life, I envied the people who could read and who had taken lessons.  Me, I had just learned what I could in jam sessions with garage bands, bar bands and when I was in college there was jazz combo.  I guess it is all in one's point of view.

But I still say that however one gets the music, it is the actual playing that makes us all musicians and that is what matters the most.

"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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NoirVelours
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Absolutly 😀 it's like driving a car, you can be automatic or manual doesn't matter you are still a driver. Or like we say in french: "Toutes les routes mènent à Rome" (all the roads lead to Roma?).

"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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Joe
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NoirVelours said
Absolutly 😀 it's like driving a car, you can be automatic or manual doesn't matter you are still a driver. Or like we say in french: "Toutes les routes mènent à Rome" (all the roads lead to Roma?).

Ill have to save this quote.

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Fiddlestix
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Here's my theory,,,, if you can hum it or sing it, you can play it without sheet music.

The note's are already there in your head, all you need to do is transfer them down to your left hand. If someone place's a brand new song in front of you and ask's you to sing the song, you probably can't. If someone play's the note's to the song then you can sing it because you know the melody, if you know the melody then you can play it. I'm not saying that reading note's is bad, reading note's is very good, but sometime's you need to throw your own stuff in there.

But i'm probably wrong about this too, I usually am.

            

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Fiddlerman
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May 7, 2012 - 10:18 pm
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Before you can do that Fiddlestix, you need to have control of the instrument. Or at least feel it in your fingers as well.

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

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Fiddlestix
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In either case, you need control of the instrument. For me it's easier to find the note by sound rather than by note's.

Example: Musician's who are sightless. Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and violinist Rin Ljima. Just couple who can't see music, it come's from their head.

Here is a perfect example.

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Fiddlerman
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You have a good point. What I suggest is when you learn a piece try playing with your eyes closed. Also, try playing with your eyes closed from time to time if you jam..... Improvise...

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

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springer
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Sorry Ken you theory fall apart with me. I can sing or hum a song but can not play it without the music (or with).facepalm

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Soguns Black Violin
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Haha. After studying music, I reallize this thing

 

Piano, guitar, and compose students will hear harmony when they listen to some song

Violin, viola, flute... ect ( instrument that play melody ) will hear the melody when we listen to some song.

 

Why? Because basicly we work more on melody than harmony :D... and we tunning with A, which is the best note for starting eartraining... so we actually can naturly reconize note when it sound.

 

I'm studying in an eartraining class, doing 4 voices writing ( teacher play 4 voices harmony, and we listen + write down ). Piano students, they write harmony 1st, then they try to put note on base on bass and melody line... for me... I can't do that, I listen + write down  4 voices and start to analysing harmony... so fun 😀

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