learning to play the accordion by ear



Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby george garside » Wed Apr 06, 2016 6:45 pm

I was of course referring to the movable 'do' - sorry if not making that clear has caused anybody any confusion

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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby Jack Campin » Wed Apr 06, 2016 11:59 pm

One situation where it really does help to get a look at the sheet music: when you're playing an instrument which is limited in range or tonality. You want to know in advance if you can actually get all the notes, and if so what you'll have to do to get them:

- set your harp levers
- tune your harp appropriately if it doesn't have any
- set your capo
- swap the chanter in your bagpipe
- pick the right key of harmonica
- pick the right pitch of ocarina
- put the appropriate crook in your valveless horn
- get your other melodeon or hang drum out of its bag
- sing an E double harmonic minor scale to get your voice used to it

Reading the details of the tune is secondary; with klezmer I often just scan through the score, pick an instrument that can play it and then learn the tune by ear.

Some ethnomusicologists print tunes with the notes used listed in pitch order at the start (I think Bartok started this). It's a really good idea.
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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby george garside » Thu Apr 07, 2016 8:26 am

I agree with Jack that it is important to know whether your instrument has the range of notes to play a particular tune ( or whether if adjustable it needs to be adjusted!) I also agree that if you have the written music and a limited knowledge thereof it will give you the required info.

However those who do not read music at all and those who may read as well as play be ear but do not have access to a set of dots can reach a swift, maybe swifter, conclusion by simply attempting to play the tune!

A lot of fun aand satisfaction can of course be had by indulging in the noble art of 'faking' notes you havn't got! maybe those playing by ear feel less inhibited about so doing and have greater faking skills - so to speak!


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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby NigelB » Thu Apr 07, 2016 10:01 am

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Last edited by NigelB on Mon May 02, 2016 8:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby acordiansam » Thu Apr 07, 2016 2:48 pm

People that only learn to play by ear notes or dots have no meaning. Also 1,3,5'7 the same. Only the pitch and how long to hold it. I was luckie I had a teacher that would work with both. It is not until they learn notes and why they go togeather. Even though I have not read a hole sheet of music in years. I still use it to find that odd cord or pregression. My ear is not perfect and will fill in the blanks as it seems fit where I did not know the cord or it comes so fast I can't catch it. The thing about playing by ear most of the time if you don't have it most likely you never will. Where as by the notes. Just about anyone can learn. Still what's best is a teacher that works with you're strong points and helps you're week points. No matter witch side there on.
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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby george garside » Mon Apr 11, 2016 9:41 am

Playing 'by ear' is , for most people, not a 'gift' but a skill that can be taught and learned just as reading written music can. Of course there are those who do brilliantly at either and those who struggle to achieve a fairly basic standard.

There are obviously some extremely gifted people who can hear a tune once and then play it brilliantly, eg Sir Jimmy Shand and the present Scottish Senior Accordion champion 18 year old Brandon Mcphee, but they are few and far between!

However learning to play by ear or from the dots must done alongside leaning and practicing instrumental technique i.e. scales, bellows control , bass exercises etc etc. i.e there are two components - learning to play the instrument and learning to play particular tunes/pieces or whatevers!

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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby george garside » Tue Sep 20, 2016 1:50 pm

just bringing this one up to remind newer members ( and others!) that this extremely popular thread (9326 views and 176 replies) is still there although it has been dormant since april.

Have we covered everything, asked all the daft or not so daft questions, recounted our experiences, or has everybody buggered off and learned to read the dots!?

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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby dan » Tue Sep 20, 2016 4:06 pm

I was scared off by the prospect of reading through 17 pages. Might be helpful to pull out a choice quote or two to get the ball rolling again.
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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby JerryPH » Tue Sep 20, 2016 10:18 pm

george garside wrote:just bringing this one up to remind newer members ( and others!) that this extremely popular thread (9326 views and 176 replies) is still there although it has been dormant since april.

Have we covered everything, asked all the daft or not so daft questions, recounted our experiences, or has everybody buggered off and learned to read the dots!?

george ;)


Actually, you laugh, but I just earlier this week taught a guitarist how to read music... and it DEFINITELY took less time for him to learn the basics of how to read music than it would have to read through the 17 pages in this thread... lol
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Re: learning to play the accordion by ear

Postby george garside » Wed Sep 21, 2016 8:24 am

dan wrote:I was scared off by the prospect of reading through 17 pages. Might be helpful to pull out a choice quote or two to get the ball rolling again.


Dan, I presume you are playing (?mainly) by ear and if so perhaps you would like to tell us where you are up to, what you are finding difficult and what you find easy, what type of music you tend to play etc etc
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