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Concentrating on one key signature
practice for playing by ear
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RosinedUp
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October 2, 2012 - 1:05 pm
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Ideally I would like the fiddle to be an extension of me in the way my voice is---to be able play fiddle as I can sing or hum the intended tune without thinking and without much trial or error.  I guess that is what people call "playing by ear".  That is what I want it to mean anyway.

Somebody suggested that, before playing a tune, it is good to practice the scale of the tune's key signature.  That seems like a good idea because maybe it puts your ear and fingers in the right context---I guess that it orients you so to speak.

Now what about finding say a  half dozen tunes, all with the same key signature, and sticking to those alone for a day or a week?  I am thinking that it might simplify things and make it easier to learn intervals and pick out patterns.

Anybody have any thoughts or experience along this line?  Or have your teacher or books recommended for or against anything like this?

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soma5
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October 2, 2012 - 1:34 pm
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I think it would not hurt for you to try this, at least for a while.  However, it can prevent you from progressing in playing by ear because it encourages you to think of a G major scale as somehow structurally different from a C major scale.  You might be trying to learn each major scale as a wholly independent entity, whereas in every major scale, the pattern of whole and half steps is exactly the same.  What this allows you to do is hear a song in one major key and play it in any other major key, as needed.  When I taught guitar, I had students play scales in every key once they had understood the scale in the abstract.  For certain styles of music, you get regional differences in the key signature.  For example, in one area of the country they might play "Billy in the Low Ground" in D and some areas in C.  Even if you know the song, unless you understand the scales you won't be able to join in.  Being adept at playing by ear means that this should not be an issue.

One thing you should bear in mind about my comments is that I come from a different background and I am not familiar with the standard teaching methodology for classical violin.  So treat this as my possibly uninformed opinion and that I'm tossing it out there for discussion.

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cdennyb
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October 2, 2012 - 3:59 pm
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Excellent post... I never really thought about learning the transposition thing that way.

I always looked at a new piece of music as new notes in a different order, not necessariloy a whole tune in a different "key".

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"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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coolpinkone
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October 2, 2012 - 4:53 pm
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As a noob, from what I can tell it seems as though my lesson book and finger tapes were set up with a view to d major scale and all the songs in the lessons seem to be of that scale. Which is probably why I get bored with the songs..... I want so much more sophisticated playing and I want it now! I am working on another song and I do not even know the key signature...

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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RosinedUp
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October 2, 2012 - 6:21 pm
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coolpinkone said
As a noob, from what I can tell it seems as though my lesson book and finger tapes were set up with a view to d major scale and all the songs in the lessons seem to be of that scale. Which is probably why I get bored with the songs..... I want so much more sophisticated playing and I want it now! I am working on another song and I do not even know the key signature...

My practice for now, when I want to play a tune that I hear, is to play it in the same key as the original.  So I grab my tuner and listen for any of the long notes in the tune.  Then I choose one of the long notes and hum or sing it into the tuner to find out what note it is.  Then I start sounding out the rest of the tune around that one note.  I take notice when I play a note that has a sharp or flat and count up all the sharps and flats and consider them as either all sharps or all flats.  Then I just write those on the staff, and I know the key signature.  Then along with practicing the song, I practice the major or minor scale (or both) for that key signature.

Sometimes I can play a tune that way almost right away without hitting many wrong notes, and I am amazed and very pleased that I can do that.  I may try the same song days later though and make a lot more errors than I did the first time I played it.  So I am guessing that my musical functions are going into this key or that without me being much aware of it.

Also sometimes I will sing a song that I played hours or days earlier and wonder whether I am hitting the notes exactly.  My tuner shows me that sometimes I am.  But at other times I find I am singing a perfect fifth above or below, so as to suit my vocal range I guess.  So, as I say, I am somehow changing keys without knowing how or why.

I pretended to play cornet for some years and actually did play it for a couple years, all about 40 years back, but was never taught any theory whatsoever.  I have picked up some basic theory lately, mostly from Wikipedia.

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Fiddlerman
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October 2, 2012 - 9:03 pm
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It's definitely a good idea. Conquer one key at a time.

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

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RosinedUp
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October 5, 2012 - 9:44 am
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coolpinkone said
As a noob, from what I can tell it seems as though my lesson book and finger tapes were set up with a view to d major scale and all the songs in the lessons seem to be of that scale. Which is probably why I get bored with the songs..... I want so much more sophisticated playing and I want it now! I am working on another song and I do not even know the key signature...

You might consider Pachelbel's Canon in D Major as more sophisticated.  Certainly it would be a challenge for any beginner!  I'm guessing it would take most beginners months or years to master it, if they go at all their practice with some intensity.  I started it a couple months ago and slogged through it for a month, and have put it aside for a while.  I got to where I could play basically all of it, but rather too slowly and usually with errors.  I will be happy if I can play it well six months from now.  It is a beautiful piece that people recognize.  At least you can basically play some parts of it right away. 

I am trying to upload pdf's of solo instrument (use for violin) and piano parts in this post, but somehow it does not seem to work.

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RosinedUp
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October 5, 2012 - 9:50 am
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Okay, I guess the pdf uploads did work.  Here is a video, but it does not exactly match the sheet music.

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