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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: What is notation for?


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/44211

alaskafiddler - Posted - 04/27/2016:  18:31:35


Lee brought up a good interesting point in previous topic about transcribing.  I think this relates to then reading notation as well, and perhaps to overall view of playing music. 



 



quote:


Originally posted by Lee M

 

I'm probably coming into this a little last.. Exactly WHY do you want to transcribe OT music? Is it for your own use? for teaching others? for posterity?  Experienced fiddler rarely play  a tune the same two times in a row.. Most 'forwards' of music collections mention this and point out that there is no One way to play a tune... I'd like to know what is going on in your mind about this...really, curiosity has got the best of me..(also really, NO insult intended.)  







One idea is that transcribing is perhaps serving like a tape recorder to document and preserve a performance, but rather than actual sound using written visual symbols to represent that.



However there are different views, goals, about that.



While there is some is just for archival documenting... I think for many folks the point is to read it for the intention of hearing that musical idea, and probably using it as a guide to learning and playing the tune. Not sure that many folks much technically use the terminology to differentiate between transcription and just notation; just a sense than transcription is more specifically attributed in how one specific person played the tune. How detailed varies; but it's not often a fully detailed precision (warts and farts and all); usually aims at showing enough to get the primary important aspects.



This is thus related to reading; notation showing how does the tune go... there are different views.



This gets into whether the use of notation, if meant to be




  1. explicit and precise quantitative instructions to follow; (interpretation is literal, means only one specific thing)

     

  2. accurate and implicit representation of the musical concepts and intent, thus requiring knowing how to interpret the intent and context; (requiring experience, understanding, knowledge of musical concepts involved)

     

  3. Then of course is the notation as just a guide, still trying to be within the idea as close to the source, but individuals will put in own individuality of subtle nuances in articulation detail, swing, drive, bounce, ornament... (how can you help but do that?)

    .

  4. To then of course, just using notation for framework idea...general feel that still conforms;  but allows even much freer adapt it how you individually play, skill, or think sounds good, what's important or not.



Maybe #1 feeds into why some folks look down on, if not anti-notation?



Interested in what folks look for in notation...explicit or implicit; precise or accurate? What expectation in how well notation can achieve?



Edited by - alaskafiddler on 04/27/2016 19:21:01

bsed - Posted - 04/27/2016:  19:20:03


Every one of us that notates tunes, unless we are using standard music notation, has developed a system unique to that individual. As for myself, I've filled multiple notebooks with tunes written in my own tab. I do it because I have a crappy memory. It also accelerates learning a tune. And unless you've taken lessons from me, nobody else will make heads or tails out of it. I wish it were  different. Like it could serve as my legacy when I'm no longer here. But sadly, they are for my use only. 



 


abinigia - Posted - 04/27/2016:  19:21:45


I am one who transcribes to get the nuances of a particular version.  It is an aid to be able to see it written as well as listen to it while I am learning a tune. It's a balancing act to get the transcription detailed enough but still have the music look uncluttered. I am not a great reader and even reading my own transcriptions becomes difficult it they are too busy. I try to get the actual notes used, including at least some double stops if they're in the tune. And I try to get the flavor of syncopated parts. I use very few lines to show phrasing, just occasionally tying together 2 or 3 notes. No bowing suggestions or extraneous stuff. I usually show 1st and 2nd endings when they're different.


I go to the trouble for myself but my transcriptions can be found on my web site.

jefferylong - Posted - 04/27/2016:  20:36:19


I think notation has its place even in Oldtime music. I use ABC notation a lot along with my Songbook Chordpro mainly just to help me remember the tune. It's not intended to be the definitive way the tune should be played, but more of a basic framework for the tune. It basically helps jog my memory. In many instances I don't even notate the full tune . . . just Enough to help me remember. It's easy when you have a large number of tunes in your repertoire to forget on occasion. It's quicker and easier to pull up than search for a YouTube or other source for the song.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 04/28/2016:  00:30:40


i don't know about O/T music specifically, but i use transcription for analysis and inspiration as much as instruction, ergo i have to transcribe for myself after reading, listening to, and interpreting other folks idea's and interpretations.... if i do it at all, (Thanks to those folk who do go to the trouble)



other than that, it's a handy way of reminding myself of the first few bars, where the bridge goes, crooked parts etc. So a basic lead sheet with suggested chords or other accompaniment idea's is usually more than adequate for me to get a version of the tune in my head and on my fingers. Sight reading just bewilders me



another thing i've noticed when reading other folks music is, that my ear is often deceived, and parts that i thought i had down sound better the way that they have written or played  them. so thanks again to those folk who do share their transcriptions, sound files etc


boxbow - Posted - 04/28/2016:  05:01:42


Handy, portable, reliable, no batteries needed, disposable without extraordinary measures.  It can be easily edited if you use a pencil and saved for posterity if you use a ballpoint pen.  It's flammable and will help get a fire going if your fiddle's wood is damp.  You can wrap your used chewing gum in it or save half a sandwich for later.  You can cover holes in the plaster.  You can fold and crease it anywhere you like.  You can wad it up and shove it in your pocket.


martynspeck - Posted - 04/28/2016:  07:19:34


A few days ago GroundHogPeggy posted a link to a bowing video from Old Time Tiki Parlor. youtu.be/SZyUK25Igkg



He teaches by ear and this is an excellent video. I transcribed his basic version for a few reasons. 



By going through the exercise I understand the music better.



I can see it in its basic form and it can serve as a reminder for how it goes. It's a visual cue for my aural memory.



Having listened to the music and written it down and played it I now have a better understanding, another layer of understanding, of the techniques involved. Specifically, the synco-shuffle and dragging the pick up notes from one bar into the next. With this understanding I can apply these techniques to another tune.



Once I've learned a tune with notation, I rarely play just the version I have notated.


mswlogo - Posted - 04/28/2016:  09:54:11


Notation is a communication tool.



I personally use it to help communicate with my teacher. It's sometimes easier to have something to point at and write on than to memorize or record and do everything by ear.



The tunes I've had the most success with I have several recordings, usually one always stands out as my reference favorite.



If I can have a good Video that has a good view on Bowing that really helps.



And a transcription so I can mark up a tune. Tunes have a life of their own and go through frequent rest periods. If I have all the above, when I bring it back into main stream I'm not starting from scratch.



I'll often make the same mistakes if I start from scratch and I might see notes like, be sure to use 4th finger here. Make sure this note is on an up bow so a note further down gets a good down bow. etc. Maybe even where to do a shift.



I don't use Notation that much for just reading notes to play it. Occasionally I do, but I'm still fairly slow at it. If a new tune is suddenly tossed around in some performance I mostly use it as a guide or an outline to add to learning it by ear.



If it's waltz I can almost keep up reading it after maybe the 2nd time around. I would like to be able to read faster and over time it is improving.



Just knowing the Key and first and last note can save me 1 or 2 passes by ear and minimize the number mistakes.



What I'd really love to able to do is sing from written notation. That is really a nice talent/tool to have. I have to have my fiddle voice in my hand to do so.



I've practiced many many hours of looking at a note and my fingers just going there to play it. If you asked me the name of the note I'd often have to stop and think about it or look where my finger is on the fiddle to name it.

I did this on purpose, practicing going straight from notation to finger with no thought in between. Sometimes to a fault. But it's the only way I could read at any speed at all.

I had to break the habit of thinking of the note name and then finding that named note on the fiddle. That was way too slow a process. I've succeeded in doing that but still not up to speed (Dance Tempo).



I also do find transcribing a tune by ear to paper a really good exercise in listening and helping retain a tune. I don't do it to often. But it really makes your brain hunt for beats, rhythm and phrasing etc. Even if I can play the tune ok, I'll probably play it better after I transcribe it. Then it again becomes a communication tool with my teacher and she'll make corrections to my transcription.



I think this very similar to how MartynSpeck uses it.



 



Edited by - mswlogo on 04/28/2016 09:58:14

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 04/28/2016:  11:02:42


I got to hand it to David Bragger -- he gives lessons that, with sufficient practice, allow you to fully memorize tunes, at least his versions of them.  I haven't taken a lesson from him in several years, but of the approximately 200 tunes he put into my head about 150 of them are either instantly accessible to my fingers or accessible within five minutes of effort. 


bandsmcnamar - Posted - 04/28/2016:  14:26:25


I start in search of the perfect (or most close to perfect) version of the tune I can find.  It needs to follow the most widely accepted set of chords, have the coolest little variations etc.  Then I sit and figure it out note by note(sometimes this takes hours, and sometimes it takes help, LOL).  As I do that, I'm notating it.  For me if the tune is a "movie" then the notation is a "snapshot" of one frame of the movie.  I try to be careful which frame I chose(like the subway grate scene or the Deathstar blowing up, you get the idea).  When it's notated, then I start working working on how to bow it, how to play it up to speed etc, but I've always got that snapshot to go back to.  A year down the road is that still what I'm playing, not likely, but I can still play the exact versions I've notated for the most part as well.



It just seems like another tool in the old toolbox to me, why not use it?  We all get the job done in our own way, but it's easier with the right assortment of tools, yes?



I've been taught tunes by ear, at festivals, with all the variations and bowing etc given right up front, and that is an easier and faster way to learn a tune.   That however is not an option on any kind of regular basis, so for me at least the this is the next best thing.   I firmly believe it's all good.


alaskafiddler - Posted - 04/28/2016:  17:59:15


i guess I should have specified...  was more about using notation with the intent to communicate with others... "how the tune goes"... Both, in what your expectations of learning a tune from reading what someone else wrote (like in transcriptions and tune books), without any audio file. Then similarly writing notation for someone else that they can read it, play it, without having heard it played. 



Part of the question is in how much explicit precise detail and instruction needs to be written  - vs  - how much can be simplified, and rely on implicit,  interpreting skill and experience?



I guess part is in what "how a tune goes" means; and what degree individual performance articulations are important.



For myself... I lean toward mostly the latter of simpler, implicit and relies on interpretation  But I notice some folks comment about fiddle notation, tune books...and how it's not very good because it might lack explicit..  drones, accent marks, slurs, bowing, ornaments... or precise fine timing detail.


pete_fiddle - Posted - 04/29/2016:  00:15:34


i often think that the tune is nice written simply, but could do with a booklet  with more detailed descriptions of the composer/ arranger/ transcriber's intentions on certain essential parts of the tune, hooks, nice bowing patterns etc, that give the the tune it's energy, more details on the background of the composer maybe, and underlying rhythms etc, this would be more use than cluttering up the notation, then the reader could decide for themselves what to take on board and what to leave out, and even which way to have a stab at improv or variations in context, sort of like an information booklet for each tune, but the notation is kept simple



 


Cyndy - Posted - 04/29/2016:  08:14:10


quote:

Originally posted by pete_fiddle

 

i often think that the tune is nice written simply, but could do with a booklet  with more detailed descriptions of the composer/ arranger/ transcriber's intentions on certain essential parts of the tune, hooks, nice bowing patterns etc, that give the the tune it's energy, more details on the background of the composer maybe, and underlying rhythms etc, this would be more use than cluttering up the notation, then the reader could decide for themselves what to take on board and what to leave out, and even which way to have a stab at improv or variations in context, sort of like an information booklet for each tune, but the notation is kept simple




 







I think Alan Jabbour's book is the most detailed I've seen. Here's a link to the sample page on his website.


pete_fiddle - Posted - 04/29/2016:  09:41:21


quote:

Originally posted by Cyndy

 
quote:


Originally posted by pete_fiddle

 


i often think that the tune is nice written simply, but could do with a booklet  with more detailed descriptions of the composer/ arranger/ transcriber's intentions on certain essential parts of the tune, hooks, nice bowing patterns etc, that give the the tune it's energy, more details on the background of the composer maybe, and underlying rhythms etc, this would be more use than cluttering up the notation, then the reader could decide for themselves what to take on board and what to leave out, and even which way to have a stab at improv or variations in context, sort of like an information booklet for each tune, but the notation is kept simple




 








I think Alan Jabbour's book is the most detailed I've seen. Here's a link to the sample page on his website.







that seems like the kind of thing i'm thinking of, but still a little cluttered and  "instructive" on the notation for me, seems like he's written the description for himself rather than as an inspiration to others, but never the less it's almost what i would like to read, after all if a player learns that tune it becomes part of his life, not just another tune to add to a list of others



but hey, i'm being a tad picky, i think :o)



edit: thanks again for the link



pete



Edited by - pete_fiddle on 04/29/2016 09:42:39

Cyndy - Posted - 04/29/2016:  13:37:12



Quote:



Originally posted by pete_fiddle: "... seems like he's written the description for himself rather than as an inspiration to others"






Maybe some of both! In the introduction, he writes: "I hope this volume will be helpful to my many students and workshops, fiddle classes, and music camps, augmenting and reinforcing what I am able to teach in person." He continues, " ... my goal is not to get my students to play a tune exactly as I do, but rather to give them stylistic tools that they can absorb, internalize, and apply to their own playing, as the spirit moves them." (p. 4)



I just reread the introduction and it's quite interesting to hear his perspective on transcriptions. If I understand correctly, he sees simple transcriptions, "uncluttered by the details of performance style," as useful for learning or remembering "basic melody." (p. 1) He then mentions "intricate transcriptions pioneered by Bela Bartok for Hungarian folksong and Percy Grainger for English folksong" and seems to say that his work falls in the middle providing "myriad pointers about the details of performance style" but not "performance minutiae." (p. 2)



He also talks about how the transcriptions were created. His collaborator, Liberty Rucker, did the notation from his recordings, then they went over it together. And, after revisions were made, they again reviewed the transcriptions together. (p. 3) 



I'm not suggesting that the approach he used for the book is "the right way" -- I think we each find what works for our own purposes -- but I find it fascinating to see how he did the project. I don't think about tunes in the ways that he does because, quite frankly, I don't have the skills to do it. I wasn't ready for the book when I first bought it, but I think I will spend some time with it again soon and see what I can learn!



I also find his description of the transcription process interesting because for me, jotting down a tune from a recording, even informally, is 95% trying very hard to listen and hear and only about 5% worrying about how to write the notation.



Edited by - Cyndy on 04/29/2016 13:39:15

amwildman - Posted - 04/29/2016:  13:54:25


I think ABC is a much better format for folk tunes than conventional notation.  Searchable databases, smaller files, etc.  Great for computer use in the modern age.  Sheet music has its uses, but is and was designed more for more complex musics.


Cyndy - Posted - 04/29/2016:  14:51:25


I can see the ABC advantages that you mention and, in fact, I've started to use it on my lesson tune spreadsheet as a way of reminding myself how tunes start. I've reached the point where I'm in need of cues like that sometimes. :)



But -- I also have a small leather-covered book of music paper that my daughter gave me and there is something very wonderful about jotting tunes down there using a pencil and a Pentel eraser that my husband bought me for Christmas one year. Somehow having my tunes written in my book in my hand feels like I'm carrying on a tradition started by musicians long ago and I like that.



My notation isn't meant to be shared so there's no need for it to be perfect. Sometimes it's just a line of circles without any rhythm indicated at all and sometimes I try to make it as accurate as I can. Often it includes bowing. 



So, to answer the question, I guess for me notation is a listening tool that helps me think and remember!


ChickenMan - Posted - 04/30/2016:  09:11:21


I like Jabbour's take for someone who is new to that southern style of OT. His footnotes convey the stylistic elements like leading the beat and bowing patterns that most seasoned players do automatically. But once one has those details ingrained in their playing, a bare bones notation (like abc) is plenty to convey the general tune. One new to this style still has to listen actively in order to understand those details otherwise it just won't sound 'right'. Imagine looking at an exact transcription of these tunes: youtu.be/OTo5Ae7Vz3c it would be very cluttered and would probably still lack the subtle rhythmic details that make the tune 'swing' (it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing). Whereas, one who has already absorbed the minutia that makes Irish tunes bounce (and cause an audience to involuntarily tap their toes like that) could learn the 'tune' from ABCs and put their own stamp on it and it would not (even with the cluttered dots, could not??) sound just like that performance because it should not - that's not how the folk process works or what it is about. We all play what's in our head and it comes out sounding like us, even if it doesn't really sound to us like what is in our head.

Lee M - Posted - 04/30/2016:  13:08:48


quote:

Originally posted by ChickenMan



I like Jabbour's take for someone who is new to that southern style of OT. His footnotes convey the stylistic elements like leading the beat and bowing patterns that most seasoned players do automatically. But once one has those details ingrained in their playing, a bare bones notation (like abc) is plenty to convey the general tune. One new to this style still has to listen actively in order to understand those details otherwise it just won't sound 'right'. Imagine looking at an exact transcription of these tunes: youtu.be/OTo5Ae7Vz3c it would be very cluttered and would probably still lack the subtle rhythmic details that make the tune 'swing' (it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing). Whereas, one who has already absorbed the minutia that makes Irish tunes bounce (and cause an audience to involuntarily tap their toes like that) could learn the 'tune' from ABCs and put their own stamp on it and it would not (even with the cluttered dots, could not??) sound just like that performance because it should not - that's not how the folk process works or what it is about. We all play what's in our head and it comes out sounding like us, even if it doesn't really sound to us like what is in our head.





You make a lot of good points here.. In Alaska's OP where he quoted my comment, I was wondering why that particular beginner wanted to transcribe OT.. I think that trying to transcribe the tunes can be a good learning tool.  One problem beginners have it that they often can't differentiate between  a core element of a tune and  a stylistic nuance....When I was learning to play I made a lot of transcriptions (hundreds) to help me remember the tunes..Detail counted.. Now, I just put down a few ABCs and let it go at that.. However, if I'm trying to teach someone a tune, I might put in specific stylistic notes so that the student can remember what it is I'm trying to teach.. Other than that, I actually teach them to play each tune several ways..


graeme - Posted - 05/02/2016:  07:04:40


If anyone gets the chance to sit in on a lesson between a graduate student and his professor, grab it. The range of interpretations for a particular passage that can be tasted, evaluated and preferred (or not) is quite dazzling. The notation, complete with its mark-up in addition to pitch and rhythm, can be brought to life in so many ways. No two artists play Beethoven concerti the same, but no-one changes the notes.



Play in a large ensemble and you will appreciate notation. So much stuff I have heard in public free-for-alls called "Sessions" is just musical junk. Thirty-four different concepts of a tune being boiled along (too fast for many) doesn't work for me. I played in a massed band of several hundred musicians many years ago, and it was a musicians hell.  And we all had the same dots to start from.





As an arranger, I learned to mark the articulation on every note of a quarter-note or longer, to mark in every dynamic change (never give a musician a part to play and not tell her how fast to play it, how loudly to start, how to articulate the notes, etc). In the world of orchestras, big bands, stage bands, recording, etc, with up to sixty or so musicians perched before a conductor, the notation is an essential first step toward excellent ensemble playing. 





Notation (plus listening) is the cornerstone of the lives of those musicians who make a living "subbing" for others in musical orchestras, etc. Turn up, turn the page, and sound like you've rehearsed this for weeks. And, in musicals, the charts are very, very difficult. Mostly.



Play by yourself, or, with a mate or two, nothing happens that you can't fix with a bit of listening, no charts needed. But that's just one corner of the world of music.



(Also, consider how many fiddle choons stay in one of about four keys. Thousands of them!!! Get out of D and into Eb, for a taste of "challenge". Then move the piece into B, or Db.) Notation, plus ears, helps us grow to do this "anywhere you like" stuff.


pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/02/2016:  07:40:22


Greame are you trying to convert folk to playing Beethoven concerti, in large ensembles, in front of professors, with sheets of music in front of em...in Db, in stead of going to a session, or public free for all as you call it... who's going to conduct?



​good luck mate laugh


boxbow - Posted - 05/02/2016:  10:34:41


Not exactly the lone voice howling in the wilderness but you can hear it from there.  Or hum a few bars.


graeme - Posted - 05/02/2016:  20:19:32


AAAAH-ROOOOOOOOOOO!





Not trying to convert anyone to anything.



 



Trying to ask  people to not make "assumptions" about stuff, based on a relatively "focused" set of experiences and preferences.



 



No-one in the classical world pretends that notation captures all of "the what or the how" of playing  a piece of music.  Or, that reading supplants listening. 



 



A good professor and a graduate student both have the skills, knowledge and desire to see how best to interpret the printed page, for their purposes. They try many options. Watching them in action is a fine educational experience (for all of us).



 





Ensemble playing is an art form, with scores part of the business. In the sessions I have seen, no-one knows exactly what should be played (in their unison approach to ensemble work), and, even with very good soloists present, the ensemble work sounds exactly like that. Sure, the loudest fluent players seem to coalesce the members present somewhat. But that, in my experience, doesn't equal building a good ensemble.





Sessions can be a lot of fun (or a lot of frustration): enjoy them.  Reading notation is not a tool for session musicians in full flight.  But, generalise wisely, when discussing "reading music" and "learning to fiddle" or "playing fiddle". The history of several hundred years suggests reading is a valuable part of the learning process, (as is listening), especially when finesse and excellence matter in an ensemble context. (Moreover, isn't it interesting that we have anthologies of folk fiddle music written up to four hundred years ago.)





Actually, I don't care what some folk might write in a forum on the Internet.  I am just trying to be neighbourly, and to alert people to the possibility of suggesting (through what they write) that they have not considered ideas from all angles.



 



AAAAH-ROOOOOOOOOOO!​


pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/03/2016:  01:09:30


Greame: i'm guessing you are right , and  that notation and classical studies will take a player, who doesn't come from a strong trad music background,(or even one who does) nearer to old or ancient music, and give them the skills to play , analyze and interpret



maybe with the demise (imo) of the pubs and sessions etc, it will become the only way for Joe public to learn this stuff, apart from historical youtubes, enthusiasm and determination ....and you never know that enthusiasm and determination might preserve the raw edge, spontaneity, and character (Craic) this music needs to live, imo



.....​but surely not in Db, can i tune down and call it baroque pitch or something?wink


DougD - Posted - 05/03/2016:  04:24:43


In actual fact, Beethoven wrote only one concerto for violin, and its in D major, with the second movement in G, so you needn't worry! And people do change the notes, at least in the cadenzas, where there are many to choose from or you can create your own.



But I don't think anyone spends any time transcribing "The Beethoven Violin Concerto as played by Rachel Barton Pine" or anything like that.


pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/03/2016:  05:11:09


i've never heard any Beethoven at any of my local sessions, although there is at least one professor of musicology, and a couple or three royal academy musicians who attend regularly, and bring piles of sheet music...... i bet Beethoven is in there somewhere  ;o)


graeme - Posted - 05/03/2016:  05:25:17


 


quote:


Originally posted by DougD

 

In actual fact, Beethoven wrote only one concerto for violin, and its in D major, with the second movement in G, so you needn't worry! And people do change the notes, at least in the cadenzas, where there are many to choose from or you can create your own.




But I don't think anyone spends any time transcribing "The Beethoven Violin Concerto as played by Rachel Barton Pine" or anything like that.







Cadenzas are, and always have been, an area where you are free to improvise. Completely. Or, play the suggestion from the composer or editor.



Beethoven is "known" for his string quartets, as much as anything else.



You might transcribe anything that you couldn't buy in a second hand sheet music bin in your local charity shop.



All I want to achieve here is "resistance" to the ideas that reading is inferior, mechanical and unnecessary. And, that, therefore, notation is crap. Some fiddlers have to get past that.



 


graeme - Posted - 05/03/2016:  05:28:38


quote:

Originally posted by pete_fiddle

 

i've never heard any Beethoven at any of my local sessions, although there is at least one professor of musicology, and a couple or three royal academy musicians who attend regularly, and bring piles of sheet music...... i bet Beethoven is in there somewhere  ;o)







This comment is a real chuckle.  Thanks for contributing this.


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