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Poll: playing by ear and playing from sheet music
How do you learn and play music, by listening or reading or both?
Topic Rating: 0 Topic Rating: 0 Topic Rating: 0 Topic Rating: 0 Topic Rating: 0 Topic Rating: 0 (0 votes) 
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RosinedUp
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October 14, 2013 - 10:41 am
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Hello violin players!

This is a poll where you indicate your ideas and habits about playing by ear and playing from sheet music.

There are 23 statements.  You won't have to choose just one.  Probably you'll agree with more than five,  I've made it so you are allowed to agree with up to 12 statements.

Ear playing here means learning and playing music starting with the sound of the music, as opposed to starting from some written representation.

Besides the poll, please share any of your ideas, experiences, impressions, etc. that you think are important to the topic.

Thank you!

How do you learn music and how do you play it after you learn it?

  • Whew! I made it to the end of this poll.(50% : 16 votes)
  • I believe most people can learn both ways of playing.(44% : 14 votes)
  • If I learn a piece from sheet music, then as soon as I can, I try to play the piece without using the sheet.(38% : 12 votes)
  • I play mainly from sheet music, but I also play by ear.(34% : 11 votes)
  • I play both by ear and from sheet music, and I value both skills about equally.(31% : 10 votes)
  • I can read music and am trying to learn basic ear playing.(31% : 10 votes)
  • I play by ear and from my memory of the sound of the tune, mostly without consciously memorizing the fingerings or letter names.(25% : 8 votes)
  • I use sheet music to identify pitches and fingerings, but I usually learn the rhythm and counting by ear.(16% : 5 votes)
  • I can learn a tune by ear, but it takes too long that way.(16% : 5 votes)
  • I learn and play only from sheet music.(13% : 4 votes)
  • I learn mainly by ear, but I may look to the sheet for the parts that are hard to figure out, such as fast parts or chords.(13% : 4 votes)
  • Ear playing requires talent that I don't think I have.(13% : 4 votes)
  • If someone can't read music, it usually means they haven't seriously tried.(13% : 4 votes)
  • I play mainly by ear, but I can also read music.(9% : 3 votes)
  • I can learn a tune from sheet music, but it takes too long that way.(9% : 3 votes)
  • I learn and play only by ear.(6% : 2 votes)
  • I can play by ear and am trying to learn the basics of reading music.(6% : 2 votes)
  • I prefer to play the music right off the sheet without trying to remember it.(3% : 1 vote)
  • Sight reading requires talent that I don't think I have.(3% : 1 vote)
  • I prefer to learn a tune from some form of tablature.(3% : 1 vote)
  • I think it's very unusual for anyone to have talents to support both reading and playing by ear.(0% : 0 votes)
  • If someone can't play by ear, it usually means they haven't seriously tried.(0% : 0 votes)
  • I prefer to learn a tune from ABC notation.(0% : 0 votes)
Total Voters: 32
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laserbrainz
SLC, UT
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October 14, 2013 - 2:30 pm
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Interesting poll! I figure somewhere in the middle, but I think I'm most comfortable getting my bearings with written music and then memorizing it and going by ear from there. I'd love to be able to pick up songs solely by ear someday, and I'm still working on memorizing which notes are which on the fingerboard - I know note names when reading music, but I'd like to memorize note names on the instrument. I'm bad at that.

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Robyn.fnq
Queensland, Australia
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October 15, 2013 - 1:48 am
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Well that was fun!  Mostly because I actually read each option before choosing ... and ... made it to the end!

Unfortunately, I think I was born without a musical cell in my body, I excelled at accountancy and other specific subjects at school.  When I read sheet music, it's sort of logical and interpretable (new word?) in an almost mathematical way, but when I try to add something artistic and creative I fail miserably.  Having said that, I rarely try to play something that's not familiar to my ear first, because I'm adding rhythm and timing from inside myself.  But ask me to tap my foot while I play and I'd probably fall over.

Anyway, just my 2 cents worth.

Thanks RosinedUp

If you think you can, or you think you can't, you're probably right.

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RosinedUp
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October 15, 2013 - 2:05 pm
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laserbrainz said
... and I'm still working on memorizing which notes are which on the fingerboard - I know note names when reading music, but I'd like to memorize note names on the instrument. I'm bad at that.

Come on, you have a piano background, no?  You know the chromatic scale, no?  Knowing the chromatic scale, you count positions from the nut and divvy up the notes among your fingers.  Here's the best chromatic fingering chart I've seen (thanks to Fiddlestix for finding it).  Most other fingering charts are specific to some key signature.

http://www.instrumentalsavings.....0chart.jpg

I think of note names when learning a tune by ear---to identify the scale and any accidentals---but not much when playing.

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pky
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October 15, 2013 - 11:44 pm
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I mostly learn to play from sheet music and I could also play by ear and from my memory of the sound of the tune, mostly without consciously memorizing the fingerings or letter names.

However, when I am in the fiddle group, I was very embarrassed because even a five year old pick it up faster than I do. Moreover, adult students don't do as well as children. The teacher will play a phrase, sing it, have us sing it a couple times, then play it a couple times, then move on to the next phrase, then put a couple phrases together, then play the whole section together, then the next section, then put two sections together. It requires strong memories. I could follow her for some of the phrases, but by the end of the session when we put everything together, I could remember very little. Also depends on the melody, I memorize some better than the other. I also found that memorizing a piece from Suzuki book one or two is no more difficult than remember a piece of fiddle music (one to two pages) that could be considerably shorter (1/2 page) and has more repetitive parts. It could be because I have heard the CD and my daughter plays those song numerous times so I am more familiar with the music. I actually am bad at repetitive parts.

laserbrainz said
… and I'm still working on memorizing which notes are which on the fingerboard – I know note names when reading music, but I'd like to memorize note names on the instrument. I'm bad at that.

I know note names when reading music, too, but when I play songs that I knew how to sing and were not learned from memory, I don't know the key, or notes, and fingering does not matter. I would be helpful if I have a fingerboard chart so I could visualize the note names and memorize all the note names, but I haven't done that.  

 

I do want to be able to learn to play by ear -- it's fun, it testing my memory, it's brain training, it's challenging.....

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Ginnysg
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October 16, 2013 - 7:42 am
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I've tried to play songs by ear, but it ends up taking me so long to work it out, and  I have to name the notes as I play... otherwise I can't seem to remember the sequence later without a lot of hit and miss.

I do notice that if I can pick out a tune by ear, it helps me when I want to add a little embellishment to a piece of sheet music. 

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” 

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laserbrainz
SLC, UT
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October 16, 2013 - 1:56 pm
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Its true that I can figure out the note names on the instrument when I try, by counting up from the nut, but I've always been jealous of the people who just had it all memorized. I haven't put in the work to do that; I usually forget to say the note names as I play them, and I hate how it interrupts the flow when I do. In the moment, I'd rather just play and forget about the technical side of the music. As I get deeper into learning music, though, I think I'm realizing that studying the technical side as well can be beneficial. I'm just so lazy, though. :)

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DanielB
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October 16, 2013 - 3:35 pm
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I do both and I don't feel I was born with either.  Maybe some folks are, I don't know.  But for the majority of us, reading any notation system and playing by ear are both things that improve with practice.

With theory.. Well, I've known some people that seemed to play quite well that claimed to know little or none of it.  But for me, understanding what I'm doing helps with doing it better.  I don't think about theory when I play.  But when I'm figuring something out or practising, I am glad I spent some time learning some of it.

 

"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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Ferret
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October 21, 2013 - 7:42 pm
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For me it's mostly by ear. I will at times have a look at the music just to give me a 'feel' of what is going on.

I've found a coulpe of times that I can't find the music or tabs for o tune that I want to play so I 'have to' do it by ear. 

An example of that would be the the tune 'Redeemed'. A Texan piece as far as I know. I can play it as well as my memory will allow but would love to see the music as I'm sure that I'm making a mistake here and there.

If anyone knows where I can get the music for it let me know 'Please'beg

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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KindaScratchy
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October 21, 2013 - 7:54 pm
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I've been working on playing by ear and memorizing -- on my own and with my teacher -- but playing by ear does not come naturally to me. Memorizing seems to be getting easier the more I do it, but I need some clue as to where to start. It helps greatly to see the sheet music first then wean myself off it. Usually, if I can remember the first few notes, that gives me a kick-start and I can work out the rest of the tune.

lumpy-2134

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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RosinedUp
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October 22, 2013 - 7:31 am
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Ginnysg said
I've tried to play songs by ear, but it ends up taking me so long to work it out, and  I have to name the notes as I play... otherwise I can't seem to remember the sequence later without a lot of hit and miss.

Danny Boy was one of the first tunes I learned and one of the first I played by ear.  I had a hard time getting to where I could play it without fingering mistakes, so it was frustrating sometimes.  Actually now I think of it as being kind of a hard one to learn on.

I would suggest choosing some key to get the most familiar with, and doing all your ear playing, if not all of your playing, in that key, for some time.  That way you eliminate some of the variables.  Then you will be learning to play by ear in that one key, not learning to play by ear in general.  Then choose one easy tune after another---ones that you already know how to sing or hum or whistle---and learn to play them by ear in your chosen key.  After you've gotten through five or ten of those, then choose a different key and learn to play some of the same easy tunes in that new key.

Would you believe that, after you learn to play by ear, the hardest part of learning a new tune will be learning and remembering what it is supposed to sound like?  Once you know the sound of it, the playing will be pretty easy.  One implication is that you'll be able to play any easy tune that you remember from your past.

Don't let it get you down that it's hard right now.  The thing to keep in mind is that it gets a lot easier the more you do it.  Also when you're learning an easy tune by ear, don't think that the reward is being able to play that tune.  The reward is the ability to play anything that you can hear in your mind's ear.

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DanielB
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October 22, 2013 - 9:55 am
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If you ever sing, hum or whistle, you probably do that most of the time by ear..

Everybody learns to do those things at some point in their life (usually very early), although often it was young enough that we don't remember it.

The difference between humming or whistling and playing an instrument by ear is the bit of practice it takes to build the link between the sound you want to make and how your fingers and bow need to move to make it.  You build it the same way as you build the ability to sight-read music. 

Start with scales, since you can probably play those from memory, then simple songs like what you used when first learning to read music.  Tackling something too complex when first starting out is usually going to be counter-productive.

And for the folks who already play by ear but haven't learned to sight-read yet, the same is true, of course.

To have both skills to at least a usable degree is quite an advantage over trying to get along with only one or the other.

"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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gwscheer
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November 6, 2013 - 9:09 pm
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@Ferret

is this the music you are looking for?

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/i.....8;size=640

gary

"Make every note beautiful", Ivan Galamian

“To play a wrong note is INSIGNIFICANT; To play without PASSION is INEXCUSABLE!” , Ludvig Van Beethovan

"It ain't rocket surgery"

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Ferret
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November 7, 2013 - 2:54 pm
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gwscheer said
@Ferret

is this the music you are looking for?

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/i.....8;size=640

gary

Hi Gary @gwscheer 

Thanks for that. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be the one.

However it does look Interesting so I downloaded the pages and will give this one a go. Thanks

 

Seen it all. Done it all. Can't remember most of dunno ..... What was I saying???? facepalm

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