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Author Topic: Playing by Ear  (Read 940 times)

Offline Ken Rasmussen

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Playing by Ear
« on: January 25, 2022, 07:11:57 PM »

   I’ve picked up my horn again, after a long layoff.  I have the ambition to try to play it as if I were singing.  I’m wondering whether it is possible to play with little or no consciousness of what note I’m playing, or what key I’m playing in.  I’d like to try to play as nearly as possible as if I were producing the sound by singing.
   I’ve been practicing along with recordings, or with my wife while she sings and plays guitar.  That works fairly well some of the time.  I don’t do nearly as well if I’m playing without the crutch of having music to follow.  I’m thinking that my extreme left-brain beginning with clarinet really screwed me up for playing by ear, so I gave up reading music some time ago.  I used to try to identify the key that the tune was in, and then drill on the scale a bit before trying to play the tune, but that strikes me as a bit too left-brain.  Now I just want to play.  I’m thinking that if I play with recordings for awhile, and get fairly facile with that, then perhaps I can eventually get myself to shunt into right brain mode whenever I pick up the horn, and I may be able to find the notes without having to follow someone else.  At present, I go into a weak trance when I’m playing by following someone else.  If I could substitute the weak trance for a stronger trance, and then do it without following, I think I’d have it.  Is that possible to do?  Are any of you able to play as if you were singing, without thinking about notes or fingerings?

Offline Windsong

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Re: Playing by Ear
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2022, 07:19:05 PM »
Absolutely.  I began playing clarinet by reading, but have not, nor do I see much benefit to reading these days for the type of music I play.
Play in the style which you enjoy the clarinet the most, and are most effective.  There is no right or wrong method or style.  Work on intonation, embouchure, timing, breathing.  Those things remain constant and critical, regardless whether you play by note or ear.  And finally, practice makes perfect.
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Offline LarryS

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Re: Playing by Ear
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2022, 10:35:14 AM »

   I’ve picked up my horn again, after a long layoff.  I have the ambition to try to play it as if I were singing.  I’m wondering whether it is possible to play with little or no consciousness of what note I’m playing, or what key I’m playing in. 
That's pretty much how I play all my instruments...
You don't stop playing when you get old, you get old when you stop playing.
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Offline super20dan

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Re: Playing by Ear
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2022, 04:04:14 PM »
i learned to play by ear by playing along with the radio but i was playing sax. clarinet is harder to play by ear i feel as it dosnt over blow an oct like sax does

Offline Windsong

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Re: Playing by Ear
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2022, 07:40:43 PM »
That is true.  It makes knowing exactly where all your notes are all the more critical, and with their alternate fingerings.  The clarinet is more complex that way, and it is also in 12ths, so registers change the location and tone of each note.
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Offline delb0y

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Re: Playing by Ear
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2022, 07:05:36 AM »
I'd love to be able to play be ear like that, just hear the guys on the bandstand, not worry about keys or chords, and just be able to stand up and start playing and be... right. Alas, I can't even get it right when I do know the key and the chords.  :-[

Offline philpedler

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Re: Playing by Ear
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2022, 02:02:34 PM »
The way to learn to play by ear is to, well, do it. (Or keep trying to do it.)
If you are making up counter-melodies, it helps a whole lot to understand what key the song is in, and to be able to hear the main chord structure. (In music terminology I mean the Tonic, SubDominant, and Dominant chords. Those are labeled I, IV, V. In the key of C, it would be the C, F, and G chords.)

Ken, you are trying to do a good thing in imitating a voice. This means that you may tongue the notes much less than you would in printed band music. Slur more. Make sure each phrase arrives at it's goal.

I don't think it helps much to think in terms of right and left brain. (I heard somewhere that the left/right thing is kind of disproved.) There comes a point where your skill with the basics meets up with your being willing to trust yourself to play something without seeing notes.