Check out our Forum Rules. Lets keep this forum an enjoyable place to visit.
I do both... Especially with unfamiliar pieces. I will learn the piece with sheet music, then commit it to memory as much as possible.
The 12 yo is loving it, he is pretty much reading all the notes…and now he's asking me to explain everything else on the sheet....and just begged me to print him out some blank pages, or get an app so he can write his own!
This one is ready for lessons if he is not already taking them!
- Pete -
It's funny how memory works. I'm an experienced classical player, and played piano for 12 years before I started on string instruments. I can look at sheet music for a couple minutes without playing at all, and then put away the sheet music and play 20-30 measures of it from memory. And yet I can't learn anything by ear, because it's hard for me to remember more than one or two measures at a time that way unless I've heard it many times. It's possible to have phenomenally good visual memory and terrible auditory memory, and vice-versa.
I'm not great at reading sheet music... I can read all the notes just fine, but figuring out the rhythm takes so much concentration, that I don't really feel the music, and it takes longer to memorize because I am not hearing the music in my head. So it takes a while for me to get away from the sheet music, unless I find a good recording to play along to, then I could read the notes and play along, and then get it memorized.
Learning by ear I memorize it as I figure out each grouping of notes, and by the time I figure out the tune, it's in my head and under my fingers. I can get the feel of it and then work on all the fun bits. Any tune I learned by ear I don't lose. Tunes I learned from sheet I do and need to relearn here and there, they are always dots on the page in my head.
But it's different for everyone. I've watched people sight read a tune at speed, adding in all the fancy ornamentation on their first go, and have it memorized right away, I don't think I could ever hope to have that skill.
World's Okayest Fiddler
As far as playing music with others...Ive practiced and memorized a tune before only to completely fall apart when I tried playing it with a group. Not only from the speed but hearing an ornament or something from someone or maybe a measure played a little different. Its a skill I'm struggling with that can be so cool when it goes good but so embarrassing when it goes wrong. I fall more into the last. But I'm still new at it and trying not to rely so much on the sheet music. In the style I like..not everyone plays the tune exactly the same way but close enough to sound good if that makes any sense at all. I think in the jam or session setting being able to learn a tune by ear is probably one of the most important things to be able to do. So far I haven't been able to do that. I'll have to use both (hearing a tune and practicing with sheet music) and over time pieces of it fall into place. Being able to read music ( and Im talking AABB format stuff not multiple page scores ) is valuable for me I just wish I had a better ear to pick stuff up on the fly like I see so many doing. I envy that!
Music is a feeling...
By this I mean.... by all means, read the music! Play what is on the page! But then play the feeling of the music...
Listen to Prairie Spring. Listen to how it feels rather than how the music would be written.
That is the only way I can explain it.
- Pete -
Yep, we are all different!...Thanks all
I booked them up for lessons ...2 teachers, every 2 weeks alternately, one who likes to go by sheet music and the other doesn't so they can get the most out of both sides....I told them they could both go to each, or swop out with who they preferred once they get a feel for it....I'm sure I'll learn a lot just by watching and listening to their lessons.
Mimi, Thanks for sharing this. I'm not sure how the fiddle camps are where you live. The ones I attend are Irish music. The teacher of that "camp" passes out a pile of printed notation that we all first sing to in perfect time. The teacher might explain a little about the tune such as origin, the type of tune it is such as horn pipe, reel, jig, slip jig etc. He also adds a little history about the tune and if there is anything odd or noteworthy about the key signature. Since the camp is mostly about learning new music we are all slogging through them sight reading unless you happened to be lucky enough to know it already. You see a lot of dumbfounded looks at these things sometimes including me :). After about the third time through we begin to get the feel of it and move on to the next. There's generally a pile of at least 20 tunes. The expectation is that we will have learned these well in a few weeks on our own.
The fact that people almost never show up to sessions with printed music means that the expectation is we have them memorized. I might occasionally spot a few players peeking at a small piece of paper tucked in their pocket.
@GregW I can fully relate to thinking I know a tune until I try to play it in a group or play along with one I'm supposed to know. The tunes generally move so fast that if I miss something small the rest are halfway through it before I can attempt to jump back on board. Knowing the players and how they play makes a huge difference. There's a lot of individuality in some of these tunes.
I love it when I get the "feel" for a song like Mimi mentions. Sometimes I think it should come more naturally. It often doesn't and not everyone plays it with the same kind of vibe. Group playing without music is probably more of a challenge than playing with notation IMHO. The tempo, the dynamics, the individual parts are often more determined by the players than by written music. Players that are used to one another can pick up on things a new player needs to acclimate to.