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Tunes by ear becoming alot easier.

Posted by MOFiddlin on Thursday, May 30, 2013

Spending nearly everyday immersing myself in fiddle tunes;popular and non popular alike and just listening over and over until it flies out my fingers and I'm playing like a champ(ok not really) but my ear has become totally accustomed to hearing certain root notes that base around a tune and that's what helps me the most.  Knowing the key it is in and then listening for the root of the tune I start to visualize in my head and hearing it in my brain enough then it just eventually comes naturally.

That doesn't mean I play it perfectly. Once the basic idea of what it sounds like then it comes out easier and easier.  Sometimes I can figure certain tunes quicker than others.  Some take me days to figure out and that is usually because of the bowing is not coming out like I want it to or sounding like what 'm hearing.

I've started listening to alot more older fiddle players too. Not that I haven't ever, but mainly some I've never really heard of or some I'm just now getting to.  Cyril Stennentt being one of them.  I first heard about him through Chirps Smith who was kind of enough to teach me through email the tune"Salty River Reel"(Still working on that one)

But recently a few tunes I've learned that seem to come quickly and maybe because they're in the Key oof D and somewhat similar in a few ways actually helped me to learn them faster. I though, well I learned Dubuque and it almost has the same notes, I'm sure I can figure"Lantern in the Ditch" and it took around 30 minutes to get the basics of it.  

So if you can find tunes that are sort of related and I don't mean mean sound alike, but in a certain key and and follow similar root notes then it can be a big help in figuring out tunes. At least that is how my experience has become.  I still have a long ways to go but I'm having fun on this journey even if at times I get very frustrated.



5 comments on “Tunes by ear becoming alot easier.”

boxbow Says:
Thursday, May 30, 2013 @7:12:08 PM

Thanks for writing down your process. There are things that sound similar to what I've experienced, but I can't say I really know how I get through it. Now I'll maybe have another look in light of what you're saying here. I keep the CD player in my truck loaded with whomever I'm trying to learn something from, be it a tune or a sound or a technique, even. What do you mean by "the root" of a tune? The most simplified form? The root of the chord? The thing I've sometimes called the skeleton? (Please,please,please don't anybody quote my terminology) I agree very much that to play a tune you have to really know your tune. Knowing the notes won't be enough. I have to be able to play the tune in my head, and let my fingers figure out for themselves how to keep up.

MOFiddlin Says:
Thursday, May 30, 2013 @8:34:13 PM

I think what I am meaning is like usually at the end of a part is a key note which would be the root note for the chord. I don't know my music theory terminology exactly so if I'm listening to someone playing backup with the fiddle I will also listen for that as well to help me determine a few things. Or I may even get my guitar out and play along.

But some tunes will seem to trick the ear if it doesn't fall on that key note at the end of a part. It feels unfinished which might mean it is a crooked tune or maybe a three part. But I haven't run into many of those. I mostly play Old-Time tunes, but picking up some bluegrass and have learned a few Irish and a few Scottish tunes, so have to learn.

Anyway, my point is to really listen and let the tune get in your head. I've listened to a tune and tried to learn it and it seemed like I couldn't get it. Then a week later after hearing it so many times, sat down and it just came out because of hearing

carlb Says:
Friday, May 31, 2013 @5:15:02 AM

Your wrote: "Some take me days to figure out". Well, some have taken me years to figure (not that I worked on them every day but often tried again every year or two): Lester McCumber's "Yew Piney Mountain" (about 15 years) and "The Blackbird" (an Irish set dance; about 35 years).

FiddleJammer Says:
Sunday, June 2, 2013 @9:49:59 AM

Each key has a particular finger pattern. Play in one key for any extended length of time and those finger patterns become second nature to you. They are the 'words' with which you'll make 'sentences' out of. I write about learning to play by ear as an adult. Look through the archives of and play along with the festival recordings that grab you.

MOFiddlin Says:
Sunday, June 2, 2013 @4:17:07 PM

carlb I think some tunes are like that. They take some time to get down. It was that way with Arkansas Traveler. It just wouldn't come and one day it just clicked and now I can play it. So, yeah some tunes just are like that become kind of a nemisis. Blackberry Blossom is another tough one to nail for me.

Thanks Fiddlejammer. I'll check that out.

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