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Playing by ear

Who relies on ear playing over reading?


  • Total voters
    117

richardr

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,742
Congratulations Richard! … but no more or less hard than your first C major scale, that’s my point.
[BGCOLOR=transparent]I played with guitarists, so I learned F# before I learned F (probably, frankly it all went away in the intervening decades). If we learned C# as our first scale we’d be struggling over C :eek:when we got to [/BGCOLOR]
it.
I'm not sure I agree with this. The easy major scales are essentially one finger after another up and down the stack so where to go for the note one wants becaomes instinctive (well......most of the time in my case). By contrast, in, say, F# major (as played on the sax, not concert) there's a jump of 3 fingers at once between G# and A# and another between D# and E#. These aren't difficult to play but they make learning to jam in this scale much more difficult. This isn't just a saxophone thing; for example my daughter, a violinist, finds concert E more difficult and has never needed tp play in F#, B or C#! From discussion of this issue with guitarists it's clear, first that everyone else, keyboard players, blowers, fiddlers etc. grumble about the keys guitarists like and, secondly, it's just as difficult for most guitarists to play in our easy keys. Here I make an exception of jazz guitarists. A couple of weeks ago an excellent rhythm guitarist told me he'd learned a few "jazz chords". He played them and I was able to jam along without difficulty.
Anyway, the guitarists aren't going to change so I'll have to learn. The up-side to this is that they don't mind blowing away quietly while they play, practicing jamming in awakward keys. It's the only way to learn!
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,293
Location
Sweden
If we learned C# as our first scale we’d be struggling over C :eek:when we got to
Yes, I learned to play blues, R'n*R soul .... songs by playing along from a taperecorder. Songs that were often in A, D, E, so I play better in these keys than F, Bb, Eb ..... . When I decide songs I go for songs in A, D or E. Sounds very good in my ears. But when my tenor friend decide a song in concert Bb I think what an odd key!! Flat and no interesting notes to blow. But I prefer to read bari lines in Db instead of C#!
 

Zugzwang

Member
Messages
679
Location
United Kingdom
...The easy major scales are essentially one finger after another up and down the stack [...] By contrast, in, say, F# major (as played on the sax, not concert) there's a jump of 3 fingers at once between G# and A# and another between D# and E#. These aren't difficult to play but they make learning to jam in this scale much more difficult.
But can you remember learning C major? From (second ) C to D is 1 finger to 7! How we struggled!:)
 

richardr

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,742
But can you remember learning C major? From (second ) C to D is 1 finger to 7! How we struggled!:)
That's an interesting remark. I can't remember any problem with C to D. Having experimented before typing this response, I think that the difference is that G# to A# and D# to E# both need movement of a pinkie. and for me that makes it more difficult. Others may not have this issue.
 

John Setchell

Member
Messages
202
Location
Norfolk UK
Had jam last night with five band members - probably a Hanging Offence, but it’s a big studio and we did have windows open!

First time I’d jammed on sax with them - all by ear. Interesting. They politely ignored my bum notes and unintended octave-jumps, but it was a REALLY steep learning curve. Better than a fortnight of practicing scales or reading I reckon.
 

brianr

Senior Member
Messages
1,257
I often play with the F# key down all the time or the Biss key insead of sid Bb key. Depends on what you're playing.
If playing the scale of F sharp major, I feel you should not go near the bis key!!!

rolling from bis A sharp onto B natural is not good from a technique point of view. Slightly easier to roll going up, but very difficult coming down. Both directions very hard at speed.

side A sharp when going to/ coming from a B natural....every time..... IMHO

of course arpeggio is different. Bis key !!!!
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,293
Location
Sweden
If playing the scale of F sharp major, I feel you should not go near the bis key!!!

rolling from bis A sharp onto B natural is not good from a technique point of view. Slightly easier to roll going up, but very difficult coming down. Both directions very hard at speed.

side A sharp when going to/ coming from a B natural....every time..... IMHO

of course arpeggio is different. Bis key !!!!
Yes, most teacher and saxplayers says it's better to use side Bb key. If I play A# throgh a whole song I use the Biss key. And I hold down F# key as well beacause I get a better flow. I play alt/side F# when I play F to F# fast. You don't have to flip your fingers just touch alt/side F# key with your rh palm. It was Andrew Clark who taught us this at our workshops. The subject was "how to get along with concert E with Bb and Eb instrumensts. Maybe F# and C# its more in the fingers than in the head? I use Bis key often. But I'm not a teacher or a pro. Just a woodshed honker.
 

squeak

Member
Messages
259
Just discovered this thread and entered my vote - first option. I can definitely read a note. It is when you put them next to each other that I start having difficulty.
 

turf3

Member
Messages
339
Location
Earth
I've been prompted to think rather more carefully about why I have such difficulty with sheet music that I've given up to it and play be "ear" instead,
For me, merely reading sheet music is not difficult. It’s playing what I read that’s the problem and timing is the stumbling block. I have tried and tried and tried, but, except for very slow, simple music, where I have time to think between notes, I cannot play a tune where my knowledge of the timing is imparted by sheet music that shows me the length of each note. I have to know how the tune sounds in order to play it, and I can’t grasp that from sheet music.
I might be able to learn to play from sheet music if I try hard enough, but, for me, it's not worth the effort so I'll keep on playing by "ear".
Western music notation does a real good job of indicating pitches but rhythm is a lot harder to read.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,293
Location
Sweden
If playing the scale of F sharp major, I feel you should not go near the bis key!!!

rolling from bis A sharp onto B natural is not good from a technique point of view. Slightly easier to roll going up, but very difficult coming down. Both directions very hard at speed.

side A sharp when going to/ coming from a B natural....every time..... IMHO

of course arpeggio is different. Bis key !!!!
You can also play long Bb 's. B + F or F#.
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Café Supporter
Messages
6,328
Location
Whitchurch, North Shropshire UK
I find playing by ear extremely difficult to do - partly because I've not done a lot of it. I can read music fluently I therefore find trying to play by ear extremely frustrating since if the dots were in front of me I'd just play it.

In my bass lessons, I have to learn pieces by rote (which is what I think many people mean when they say playing by ear - I realise not all do). I get very frustrated as I struggle to remember the patterns / sequences. Ten minutes after the lesson I'm already struggling to remember exactly what we've done.
 

John Setchell

Member
Messages
202
Location
Norfolk UK
I find playing by ear extremely difficult to do - partly because I've not done a lot of it. I can read music fluently I therefore find trying to play by ear extremely frustrating since if the dots were in front of me I'd just play it.

In my bass lessons, I have to learn pieces by rote (which is what I think many people mean when they say playing by ear - I realise not all do). I get very frustrated as I struggle to remember the patterns / sequences. Ten minutes after the lesson I'm already struggling to remember exactly what we've done.
I’m finding this discussion fascinating.
A while ago I was jammin’ at a friend’s house, and we had nobody on piano. This friend’s daughter is a concert pianist and was staying for the weekend, and we persuaded her to help-out on keys. Without dots she was useless!
 

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