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Playing by ear

Who relies on ear playing over reading?


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Moz

Senior Member
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658
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North of Liskeard, Cornwall,UK
When playing piano you can see the keyboard, which makes playing both aural and visual. This is what I found was really hard at first on sax - I couldn't see the keys so had no visual representation of what I was playing. With guitar and piano I can see the music as shapes on the keyboard/fretboard, which makes life much easier for me.


I think playing the sax works almost the same way though. When you learn saxophone you do so without ever seeing your fingers or the keys (unless you are looking in a mirror, in case you'd always have to look in a mirror) so in a way you still 'see' the keys through the muscle memory in your fingers and arms. Also don't forget your mouth, that too does different things with the music and no one can really teach you that and there are no dots to read for it.
 

thomsax

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Sweden
When playing piano you can see the keyboard, which makes playing both aural and visual. This is what I found was really hard at first on sax - I couldn't see the keys so had no visual representation of what I was playing. With guitar and piano I can see the music as shapes on the keyboard/fretboard, which makes life much easier for me.
Did Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles began to play sax, harmonica, drums ..... or did they start with the piano? I agree, to see the your fingers and keys can help when you start to play the saxophone.
I think playing the sax works almost the same way though. When you learn saxophone you do so without ever seeing your fingers or the keys (unless you are looking in a mirror, in case you'd always have to look in a mirror) so in a way you still 'see' the keys through the muscle memory in your fingers and arms. Also don't forget your mouth, that too does different things with the music and no one can really teach you that and there are no dots to read for it.
When I learned a song I started with singing. I cut up the song i smaller pieces and I just sang it as I've heard it, which was often not as it was written. So I did my own versions. We talk about traditional music and I think this is some kind of traditional music. Today we have machines and computers to help so we can play close to the original. I think the dots is just a language. You can do your own music language. Like a co-driver in rally. They use write own notes ... . @ Moz is that you that play in a band/hornsection that played "Blinded By the Light"? I've been searching for the clip but I could' t find it. I liked it. :thumbs:
 

Moz

Senior Member
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658
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North of Liskeard, Cornwall,UK
. @ Moz is that you that play in a band/hornsection that played "Blinded By the Light"? I've been searching for the clip but I could' t find it. I liked it. :thumbs:

Oh , heavens no, it would have been nice to play in an established band. I played in a local band that wrote our own music. We amounted to nothing. Here is a link to a video that someone made:

Gettin' Jiggy

I'm the bald guy playing the harp and saxophone.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
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Sweden
Oh , heavens no, it would have been nice to play in an established band. I played in a local band that wrote our own music. We amounted to nothing. Here is a link to a video that someone made:

Gettin' Jiggy

I'm the bald guy playing the harp and saxophone.
I like that as well. Sounds good.
I'm sorry for the mix up ...... no I'm not sorry if it wasn't for the mix up I would probably not heard you playing. The guy I was think about also had three letters username. Playing rock, ska .... and was on a Martin Comm II saxophone.
 
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Petlyn

Member
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104
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Wirral NW UK
In my 80+ years of music, choir, violin, and all single reeds I have read and find 'playing by ear' difficult on everything but the clarinet, so I'm a reader. I envy musicians who shout across the stage 'what keys it in' and away they go, wish I could have mastered that.

Great thread Taz thanks.
 

SaxBySW

Member
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58
Locality
London
Same here as well. I’ve often pondered why I struggle with memorising on the horn - on piano, I commit most things memory pretty quickly, even complex pieces (I don’t try, it just happens). I wonder if it’s my brain’s method of coping with the job each hand is having to do independently.

Sax is a much more physical pursuit, a) standing vs sitting, b) intonation and dynamics much more complex and require significant concentration c) tie all that into phrasing and musicality, quite a lot of basic effort when you think about it.
 

SaxBySW

Member
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58
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London
Back onto the original topic, I can just about hack out a version of something I’ve heard by ear with a bit of trial and error, but have no issue harmonising with other musicians so long as I know the key they’re in (and have heard what they’re playing at least once).
 

John Setchell

Member
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309
Locality
Norfolk UK
In my 80+ years of music, choir, violin, and all single reeds I have read and find 'playing by ear' difficult on everything but the clarinet, so I'm a reader. I envy musicians who shout across the stage 'what keys it in' and away they go, wish I could have mastered that.

Great thread Taz thanks.
Try playing in a Blues band! The lead guitarist telling you what key it’s in would be a luxury.
The truth is that a lot of the time they don’t actually know what key it’s in.
 

mizmar

Senior Member
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1,577
Locality
Trondheim, Norway
Same here as well. I’ve often pondered why I struggle with memorising on the horn - on piano, I commit most things memory pretty quickly, even complex pieces (I don’t try, it just happens). I wonder if it’s my brain’s method of coping with the job each hand is having to do independently....
I've been thinking and working on this issue since posting.
I think part of the difference - for me - on the piano is that I tend to over learn phrases. First the righ hand, then the left then both then speed up etc. Indeed chappy here specifically recommends overlearning as a technique.
I also decided to apply this a bit on the sax by sloshing down some reasonably comfortable arrangements of proper tunes (from this chap) and learning each to the point where I can play without looking (backing tracks or iReal). This is a great exercise for me!
 

Petlyn

Member
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104
Locality
Wirral NW UK
Oh disagree entirely can you imagine 9 players starting ANY piece of music in 9 different keys ugh !!!
 

John Setchell

Member
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309
Locality
Norfolk UK
Oh disagree entirely can you imagine 9 players starting ANY piece of music in 9 different keys ugh !!!
I have to agree Petlyn. To jump in immediately after the leaders say “One two, one two three four” and not know what key or scale is going to lead to a very ragged start. I can identify the key from first couple of notes, but the “flavour” takes a couple of bars.
You can of course watch the leader’s fingers on his/her instrument preparing for the first note, as you curse under your breath!
 

spike

Old Indian
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2,428
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Half way up a hill
can you imagine 9 players starting ANY piece of music in 9 different keys ugh !!!
Providing they've all heard the piece in question - that is something that is unlikely to happen with ear players.
 

mizmar

Senior Member
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1,577
Locality
Trondheim, Norway
As input for folks (those of us) looking to improve our abilities on this front.
I came across the vido below, which is of relevance, from a SOTW post of a book.
Looks like some useful stuff. I actually emailed TE Tuner to suggest they add the ability to play a random tone, they said they where positive.

View: https://youtu.be/-UMLDKgQl5s
 

Pete Thomas

Well-Known Member
Commercial Supporter
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St. Mary's
Oh disagree entirely can you imagine 9 players starting ANY piece of music in 9 different keys ugh !!!
Sorry I was talking about a different situation. If someone is calling a tune for 9 players they will probably mention the the key as the tune is called.

Of course 9 people can’t automatically and telepathically know what key something is about to be in :)

What I meant was someone asking what key once the tune has actually started
 

Petlyn

Member
Messages
104
Locality
Wirral NW UK
Sorry I was talking about a different situation. If someone is calling a tune for 9 players they will probably mention the the key as the tune is called.

Of course 9 people can’t automatically and telepathically know what key something is about to be in :)

What I meant was someone asking what key once the tune has actually started
Once it’s started no problem but I play in 3 different bands and they will play a well known piece in 3 different keys great fun.
 

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