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Playing by ear

Who relies on ear playing over reading?


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    128

Moz

Senior Member
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870
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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

Well-Known Member
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4,488
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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
Messages
870
Locality
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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4,488
Locality
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
Café Supporter
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78
Locality
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

New Member
Messages
17
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

New Member
Messages
17
Locality
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
Messages
285
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
Messages
1,021
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!
 

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