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#1954334 - 09/05/12 03:32 PM Will This Work?  
Joined: Aug 2004
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TromboneAl Offline
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TromboneAl  Offline
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A continuing problem I have is that I sometimes don't remember the notes of the jazz tunes that I play with my trio. I prefer to memorize the tunes, and if I haven't played something for a while, it can be problematic.

My thinking is that if I could play by ear perfectly, then this wouldn't be an issue. I have no trouble remembering how it goes, so I'd just play what I hear in my head.

Now, I've always been pretty good at playing by ear. "Pretty good" is the important phrase there. The problem is that for jumps of more than a fifth or so, my playing by ear is just not reliable.

So here's my plan: I'll work on my ear training until I'm really good, recognizing intervals instantly. I will use that when playing by ear, and eventually be able to play any tune that I can hear in my head perfectly on the piano in any key.

Do you think that will work? Have any of you done something like that?

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#1954409 - 09/05/12 05:53 PM Re: Will This Work? [Re: TromboneAl]  
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etcetra Offline
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Short Answer: There are plenty of people with perfect pitch that can't improvise very well. So I am not sure if what you describe will give you desired results.

Long Answer:

I think it really depends on the person. There are people like Chet Baker who can't read music at all and do everything solely by ear, I've also read that it didn't matter which key he played "windows" in, as long as he followed his ear, he know what to do. I am not sure if having that kind of ear is something that you can acquire with practice. I've transcribed close to 500pgs of music over the last 10 years, learned at least 50 jazz solos by completely ear and if you give me any jazz solos, I can transcribe it couple of days. But I am nowhere close to being able to play anything I hear instantly.

I find that when I play I rely on all aspects of my musical ability. Having understanding in theory helps me just as much as my ears and the compliment each other. I can figure out tunes quickly and transpose tunes on spot partly because of my ears, but partly because I know enough theory to realize recognize common patterns.

I am not saying you shouldn't work on your ears. In fact, I think that's what most people need to work on the most, but I think it's too naive to to think that you can address all your problems that way, and I think we can all benefit from more well-rounded approach and learn some theory and other stuff too.

#1954470 - 09/05/12 08:35 PM Re: Will This Work? [Re: TromboneAl]  
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TromboneAl Offline
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TromboneAl  Offline
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Thanks, etcetra. I'm in your same position -- transcribing is one of my strengths. But with transcribing, I can afford to do a lot of trial and error. That's not the case when playing a melody at a gig.

There's only one problem that I want to solve: being able to play a melody by ear so that I don't have to remember the exact notes.

Here's an example: in Easy Living, there's a descending sixth in the second half of the first measure:

https://www.box.com/s/scy1dsu2lekoxzqpftg4

As it is, I have to remember that that jumps from a C to an Eb (in this key). If I was able to recognize a descending sixth instantly, I wouldn't need to remember that.

Last edited by TromboneAl; 09/05/12 08:37 PM.
#1954614 - 09/06/12 06:09 AM Re: Will This Work? [Re: TromboneAl]  
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KlinkKlonk Offline
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I also tend to forgot tunes, learning them from recordings with vocals seems to be the best way to retain the melody. Back in the days gigging musicians played the same tunes every night so it became second nature. I'm not gigging every night so I forget the tunes. I think it's that simple. We also never heard standards as pop music when we grew up, so theyre alien to us in a way. But I do know every nuance of Madonnas "Like a Prayer"..

#1954696 - 09/06/12 09:39 AM Re: Will This Work? [Re: TromboneAl]  
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Jim Frazee Offline
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Jim Frazee  Offline
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Al,

One good technique is to think of a familiar tune for any given interval. E.g., a major seventh could be the first two notes of Bali Hai or Over the Rainbow (octave, seventh) or augmented fourth/diminished fifth would be first two of Maria, minor third is bridge to Over the Rainbow, etc. Once you identify these from your own "ear-sight" you're on the way. thumb


PianoPerfection
Teacher, performer, technician
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#1954757 - 09/06/12 11:09 AM Re: Will This Work? [Re: TromboneAl]  
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TromboneAl Offline
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TromboneAl  Offline
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Northern, Northern California
Yes, here's my list:



    ascending

m2     Jaws
M2     Happy Birthday
m3    Brahms's lullaby, "Go to sleep..."
M3    Do a Deer
P4    Here Comes the Bride
TT    Maria (West Side Story); Simpsons theme song (The Simpsons)
P5    Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
m6    The Entertainer (3rd and 4th notes)
M6    N-B-C
m7    There's A Place for Us
M7    Somewhere Over the Rainbow (1st and 3rd)
P8    Somewhere Over the Rainbow


    descending

m2    Jaws
M2    Three Blind Mice
m3    Star Spangled, This Old Man
M3    Beethoven's 5th
P4    Eine Kleine, O Come, All Ye Faithful
TT    Blue Seven
P5    V - I Cadence
m6    Love Story
M6    Down by the Riverside
m7    American in Paris Snippet
M7    I Love You
P8    

Also, there's a phenomenal free iPhone app called play by ear. It shows an interval, and you play it on your piano. It listens, and tells you if you got it right.

It's from iwasdoingallright.com

Last edited by TromboneAl; 09/06/12 11:14 AM.
#1955089 - 09/06/12 09:36 PM Re: Will This Work? [Re: TromboneAl]  
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knotty Offline
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One thing that can help is thinking of the melody in relation to the harmonies. For example in Lady Bird, you have larger intervals like 6th also, but you can think of it as outlining the chord. Then it gets harder to miss the target notes.

Also getting used to the sound of each chord tone. The root obviously, often the 4th of a minor chord is used in melodies, 5ths, etc..

Playing melodies in multiple keys will help a lot with both aspects because you have to use more tricks to achieve the same result. Pure memory is no longer most efficient.




#1956099 - 09/08/12 07:25 PM Re: Will This Work? [Re: TromboneAl]  
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TromboneAl Offline
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TromboneAl  Offline
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To give you a feeling for my problem (and my pain) here's an excerpt from last night's gig. It should have been obvious that the note I wanted was the E (the fifth in the Am chord), but I just had a little blank moment there...

https://www.box.com/s/ykqs64bgej54miudg0xc

Ouch.

I realize that I'd never systematically memorized that tune, and was essentially playing by ear badly.

Last edited by TromboneAl; 09/09/12 10:03 AM.
#1956715 - 09/10/12 12:39 AM Re: Will This Work? [Re: TromboneAl]  
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JamesPlaysPiano Offline
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Hey Al,

Here's a subtle-but-crucial variation on your original plan that might make a big difference for you: interval recognition is obviously very important, but what if you concentrated more on recognizing scale degrees?

I was just thinking- I've played Summertime a million times, but if I was suddenly playing it in a key I've never played it in before, like F# minor or something, and then I came to that same spot in the melody where you made that error... I don't think it would actually be intervals that would (hopefully!) "save" me. As people do when they play by ear, I'd be hearing a "mental recording" in my head of the tune while I was playing. But when it gets to that point in the melody where you were looking for the E, I don't think I would be thinking "descending perfect fourth!" in my head. Instead- and this is huge for me- I think I'd be thinking "tonic down to fifth" or "Do down to Sol." Then I'd look for Sol in the key I'm playing in.

So I'm wondering: how challenging would it be for you to listen to a piece of music and call out scale degrees and/or solfege syllables as they happen? If you can name them, then the last step is simply finding them in the key you're in.

To this end, if you've never done something like this before, it might be useful to create a little "list" for yourself, describing as best as you can the most unique "characteristics" of each scale degree. It would be a sort of "list of the 'personalities' of each scale degree." I could give you my own list but I would think it would be much more important for you to consider how the pitches strike you, and use your own "impressions" to make the list. If you can make the unique characteristics of each scale degree stand out more in your mind, then you would hopefully have a better chance of recognizing them when your own "internal recording" is playing, as it were.

Just a thought?

James




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#1956893 - 09/10/12 11:16 AM Re: Will This Work? [Re: TromboneAl]  
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Hidden son of Teddy Wilson Offline
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Ear training is a very good idea. Personnally I use a mix of play-by-ear and memorizing. The memorizing makes up for my lack of play-by-ear abilities....

Re. the ear training itself, I agree with James.
I don't think recognizing intervals "in a vacuum" is very useful. It's better to recognize notes within the context of a key.

There's a number of articles about that if you look up "contextual ear training".
This is a good article:

http://www.miles.be/articles/28-contextual-ear-training

See paragraph titled : "Intervals vs. tonic context"

#1956986 - 09/10/12 02:58 PM Re: Will This Work? [Re: TromboneAl]  
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daviel Offline
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daviel  Offline
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl
To give you a feeling for my problem (and my pain) here's an excerpt from last night's gig. It should have been obvious that the note I wanted was the E (the fifth in the Am chord), but I just had a little blank moment there...

https://www.box.com/s/ykqs64bgej54miudg0xc

Ouch.

I realize that I'd never systematically memorized that tune, and was essentially playing by ear badly.


You're too hard on yourself - I didn't hear anyone gasp from the patrons in the audience. I do not think there is a short-cut. All the suggestions so far are very good. You don't need to go out and buy some musical self-help course. To me, an adjunct to ear training is lots and lots of experience playing the tunes... until they are automatic and you do not have to worry about what interval it is etcetera. I think the "systematically memorize that tune" is the way to go. Use your time that way instead of going down a rabbit trail. To use a baseball example, if you are a good hitter then hit, don't try to learn how to pitch. You playing is very nice. Just fine tune it by bearing down on learning the tunes and your ear will improve, too, I bet.

Last edited by daviel; 09/10/12 03:02 PM.

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
David Loving, Waxahachie, Texas
#1957162 - 09/10/12 09:48 PM Re: Will This Work? [Re: TromboneAl]  
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etcetra Offline
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etcetra  Offline
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You can try learning tunes in different keys. Just pick one tune and learn it in all 12 keys over the course of 3-4 days, and keep on doing that on different tunes.

#1960822 - 09/18/12 07:40 PM Re: Will This Work? [Re: TromboneAl]  
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TromboneAl Offline
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TromboneAl  Offline
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Progress Report: It's now been about two weeks. Every day I spend about an hour working on my ear training using these tools (both free and highly recommmended):

http://intervaleartraining.com/
http://www.iwasdoingallright.com/playbyear/iphone/

I've gotten a lot better, and more significantly, a lot faster.

The other thing I do is pick random tunes from the Real Book, and play them by ear. When I come to a jump that isn't immediately obvious (usually a jump of more than a major third), I pause and figure it out. That is, sing the interval, recognize it, then play it.

Using this system, I can usually play a tune perfectly, although with pauses. So, I'm working to make my interval recognition instantaneous, so I can eliminate those pauses.

Interestingly, I'm finding that I am slower at recognizing the intervals when playing a tune than using one of the apps above. I think this is because I am hearing the interval in my head rather than through my ears.

So, bottom line, I think this system will work.


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