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Oct 17, 2021 - 10:43:45 AM

12588 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by USAF PJ

How do we define "ear training", I think I have gotten better by listening, but what are your thoughts on this as it does not seem this is often taught during lessons, my experience.


Ear training is learning to recogninze relative pitches. Intervals, as I said before. Also learning chord sounds -- the major, minor, and minished triads as well as the various sevenths and other  extended chords. Not "perfect" pitch where you hear a chord and you know exactly which one it is and all of its notes., but recognizing the flavor of chord so that if you hear it in the context of a song for which you know the key you'll be better able to identify the chord.

Ear training is what leads to having the musical ear that tells you -- when you're trying to play known melody on the fly -- how far up or down the next note is from the one you just played.

It's not part of most lessons or instruction programs because your typical banjo or guitar teacher probably doesn't have a method for teaching ear even if they use their ear all the time.

All it takes is Googling "ear training" to find lots of free videos online -- many of which are probably pretty good. Some might be teasers to buy programs, many of which might also be good.

I highly recommend anything taught by Rick Beato (pronounced "bee-AH-toe."  Here's a free intro.  Note that only 50 seconds in, he's already talking about intervals.

Oct 17, 2021 - 11:43:44 AM
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USAF PJ

USA

278 posts since 9/19/2014

Nice Ken, thanks!!!

Oct 17, 2021 - 12:11:33 PM
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242 posts since 3/2/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory
quote:
Originally posted by brententz
Very good point about intervals!...thats what i was trying to convey when talking about how most people can jump half and whole steps automatically when mimicking a tune with their voice and how that can eventually be taught to your fingers finding the right note. I need to brush up on mt terminology : )

And I should have read your message more carefully. I would have acknowledged you talked about intervals without using the actual term.

Ira was getting at that, too.

The sounds of half-step, whole step (second), two whole steps (third), seven half-steps (fifth) can all be learned. Anyone who can hear chord changes and get the right chord already recognizes these intervals since what they're reacting to most of the time (I believe) is the root note of the chord. So they need to transfer that recognition to melody notes independent of the chord.


To emphasize your point and to give more hope to the OP I distinctly remember going to jams and fumbling chord changes terribly. (OP says he doesnt do this anymore so he's at least halfway there) Now unless its a chord stuck in a highly unusual place my hand just naturally goes to it and I don't remember when that change took place since it was gradual. I don't believe theres a method to it but it appears to me the melody gradually comes the same way. I know i'm being reduntant after all these other posts and great advice.

Edited by - brententz on 10/17/2021 12:15:14

Oct 17, 2021 - 1:39:59 PM

4501 posts since 12/6/2009

quote:
Originally posted by USAF PJ

Thanks Alex! To be precise it is numbers 1 and 4. I was never thinking instrumental.

@Overhere

How do we define "ear training", I think I have gotten better by listening, but what are your thoughts on this as it does not seem this is often taught during lessons, my experience.


I would say that "ear training"  is more an acquired side benefit that usually is developed  without trying overtime it just happens....or at least should. I'm surprised you haven't experienced it yet. but will ask how do you play what you play that you now know....did you learn from tabs, ? or did someone show you? or is it because you heard it?..... if you are playing with someone even if its a brand new song by ear should give you enough to make a pretty good stab at it. and then when in private just work out the details. (in your own way)

Oct 17, 2021 - 3:07:03 PM
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Alex Z

USA

4594 posts since 12/7/2006

"Trying to find the melody on my own w/ time is something I have done. Trying to find the melody of an unfamiliar song during a jam, no bueno. "

That's a good skill, to hear the melody and, by experimentation on your own time, find the notes on the banjo.  If you can do this, you don't need "ear training"  -- your ears already have the ability to recognized the melody and transfer to banjo.

Yet in real time, during a jam, during the middle of a song, and then taking a real "break" -- meaning getting some of the flavor of the melody -- is a different skill.

Here is an analogy, and a suggestion:

   Analogy:  Think of the difference between a person's reading vocabulary and their speaking vocabulary.  The reading vocabulary can be very large, as reading experience puts a lot of information into the head.  Speaking, however, is drawing that information out of the head in some logical and relevant order.  

  Suggestion:  To gain the skill to improvise a realistic melody break, you have to expand the "speaking experience" on the banjo.  This means getting enough experience, by trial and error, to know the sounds that will be coming out of your fingers and know how your fingers have to move to get those sounds, without conscious thought.  It's more like extemporaneous speaking or touch typing -- your conscious brain does not get in the way.

    Now, in the early days, I've been there.  We all have.  I had no idea how someone could play a nice break that follows the melody on the spur of the moment.  The solution is that the player has to just jump in and do it -- and believe me, you'll crash and burn.  Yet every time you crash and burn, you'll be building up a stock of knowledge of what works or doesn't work for specific sounds.   You can crash and burn at home, doesn't have to be in public, although some public experience will be helpful too as it applies pressure.  Again, no real conscious thought between the sound of the upcoming melody in the player's mind and what the fingers have to do to get there.

   So take a simple melody, such as You Are My Sunshine, recognize that the first three pick up notes are 4th string, 3rd string, 3rd string 2nd fret, and give it a go, 3 finger picking, not picking out individual melody notes (that skill you already have).  Crash and burn is OK.  Then start over and do it again, this time you'll get a little farther along.  Keep repeating for 10 - 15 minutes, see how far you can get.  Might be surprised.

   Now, you can't stop and restart in a public jam, but here you are practicing the skill of picking and getting sounds and comparing mentally to the melody, without conscious thought -- that's the exact skill that's needed.  And so that's what has to be practiced.

Do for a few months, realize you are gaining a skill.   Many classically trained musicians, as skillful as they are, don't have this skill, because they don't need and therefore have no experience learning this skill.  Piano player in a bar, they are doing this as a living -- "Can you play Honeysuckle Rose?  Can you play it in Bb so I can sing along?" smiley

Hope his helps.  You'll get there.

Oct 17, 2021 - 6:12:35 PM

USAF PJ

USA

278 posts since 9/19/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

"Trying to find the melody on my own w/ time is something I have done. Trying to find the melody of an unfamiliar song during a jam, no bueno. "

That's a good skill, to hear the melody and, by experimentation on your own time, find the notes on the banjo.  If you can do this, you don't need "ear training"  -- your ears already have the ability to recognized the melody and transfer to banjo.

Yet in real time, during a jam, during the middle of a song, and then taking a real "break" -- meaning getting some of the flavor of the melody -- is a different skill.

Here is an analogy, and a suggestion:

   Analogy:  Think of the difference between a person's reading vocabulary and their speaking vocabulary.  The reading vocabulary can be very large, as reading experience puts a lot of information into the head.  Speaking, however, is drawing that information out of the head in some logical and relevant order.  

  Suggestion:  To gain the skill to improvise a realistic melody break, you have to expand the "speaking experience" on the banjo.  This means getting enough experience, by trial and error, to know the sounds that will be coming out of your fingers and know how your fingers have to move to get those sounds, without conscious thought.  It's more like extemporaneous speaking or touch typing -- your conscious brain does not get in the way.

    Now, in the early days, I've been there.  We all have.  I had no idea how someone could play a nice break that follows the melody on the spur of the moment.  The solution is that the player has to just jump in and do it -- and believe me, you'll crash and burn.  Yet every time you crash and burn, you'll be building up a stock of knowledge of what works or doesn't work for specific sounds.   You can crash and burn at home, doesn't have to be in public, although some public experience will be helpful too as it applies pressure.  Again, no real conscious thought between the sound of the upcoming melody in the player's mind and what the fingers have to do to get there.

   So take a simple melody, such as You Are My Sunshine, recognize that the first three pick up notes are 4th string, 3rd string, 3rd string 2nd fret, and give it a go, 3 finger picking, not picking out individual melody notes (that skill you already have).  Crash and burn is OK.  Then start over and do it again, this time you'll get a little farther along.  Keep repeating for 10 - 15 minutes, see how far you can get.  Might be surprised.

   Now, you can't stop and restart in a public jam, but here you are practicing the skill of picking and getting sounds and comparing mentally to the melody, without conscious thought -- that's the exact skill that's needed.  And so that's what has to be practiced.

Do for a few months, realize you are gaining a skill.   Many classically trained musicians, as skillful as they are, don't have this skill, because they don't need and therefore have no experience learning this skill.  Piano player in a bar, they are doing this as a living -- "Can you play Honeysuckle Rose?  Can you play it in Bb so I can sing along?" smiley

Hope his helps.  You'll get there.


Thanks Alex again. You've been a big help to me in many ways! So I am no longer in so Cal as you can see. Anyways though I know I have a ways to go I do appreciate the good word. I was picking out something the other afternoon and my wife knew exactly what it was. But yes maybe I will be crashing and burning here soon, but I know it will help. Sometimes I feel as if I am close but maybe there is a missing element. 

All of you have been helpful! Much appreciated.

Oct 18, 2021 - 2:27:48 AM
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phb

Germany

3113 posts since 11/8/2010

I certainly wouldn't consider myself an advanced player but I also struggle with playing melody based breaks in jams while I am usually able to figure out chord sequences and follow along. I certainly can't play anything in a jam I learned at home so going home and preparing a break for the next time the song is played isn't a solution for me. It also seems to be a little bit of a crutch if one can learn to improvise breaks instead.

One advice I haven't read here or in other similar discussions and that I figured out all myself is about something that perhaps also only applies to me. When I got to the stage of looking for melody notes inside chord formations, I found this difficult. One reason was that usually you roll through chord notes anyway so the melody note you are looking for is probably there inside the roll already but doesn't get the emphasis it should get by appearing at the right point in time on a strong note. My first instrument was the guitar and there you are taught to rather not move up and down the neck in search of the melody but to change positions as little as possible because you have so many strings available. The banjo only has four strings (well...) available for melody notes and since you are rolling through the chords, this number is effectively reduced below that number (arguable but it makes sense to me and I can't explain it better). So the thing for me to figure out was to not cling to one chord position and look for the melody notes in that chord position but rather move more often from chord position to chord position for the same one chord in search for the melody than I would have done on a guitar. If the melody moves up and the chord stays the same, you can e.g. move from G between frets 3 and 5 to G between frets 7-9 and the selection of chord notes you roll through will move up. Since the higher melody note you are looking for is in there somewhere, you will probably play it even if you don't realise which one it is. A lot of those two-finger "chords" on the 1st and 2nd strings is exactly about this so perhaps all this was obvious to everyone but me.

Oct 18, 2021 - 7:18:14 AM
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4015 posts since 3/28/2008

Excellent comment, Alex Z. One intermediate step when jamming might be to go for the general contour of a tune, not worrying so much about the exact notes. Does the melody start low and work its way up? If so, start on the 4th or 3rd string and see where that leads you. Does it mainly stay in a high register? Hang out on the 1st or 2nd string.

I remember doing this years ago in a jam session that was centered around two great fiddlers, Jon Glik and Ward Stout. They kept calling these fiddle tunes I'd never heard (and doing great twin parts!). When it came my turn for a banjo break, I'd just try to get the general shape of the tune. I imagine I might have come closer on some than on others.

Edited by - Ira Gitlin on 10/18/2021 07:18:36

Oct 18, 2021 - 7:28:36 AM
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4015 posts since 3/28/2008

Another important thing to notice (if you're not thinking along these lines already) is that a Scruggs-style lick isn't just an algorithm that you execute with your hands. It's a banjo version of a little bit of melody.

Think of the beginning of the sung melody to, for example, "Your Love Is Like A Flower": "It was long, long ago...." If you sing it in G, the notes for "long, long ago" are B,B,A,G. Now play this familiar lick: TIMTMITM, starting with a slide on the 3rd string and ending with a pulloff on the 3rd string. Hear how that matches "long, long a-"? (Follow it up with an open G for closure.)

Many (most?) Scruggs licks encode fragments of melody in a similar manner. Train yourself (if you're not doing so already) to make the connection between the licks or left-hand moves and the melodies to which they correspond. That way you don't have to figure out each individual note of a melody on the fly; you can assemble the melody out of chunks you already have in your musical/manual vocabulary.

Oct 18, 2021 - 8:08:10 AM

USAF PJ

USA

278 posts since 9/19/2014

Thanks Ira, that makes sense to me. I am currently picking out "Working on a Building", my sense tells me to start on the on the high D and B strings. Open then 2nd fret, 5th fret, open, then open B. Not asking for a quick lesson here but...... any feedback from you is valued (going from memory on what I just wrote).

Oct 18, 2021 - 8:19:24 AM
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12588 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Ira Gitlin

Many (most?) Scruggs licks encode fragments of melody ...  you don't have to figure out each individual note of a melody on the fly; you can assemble the melody out of chunks you already have in your musical/manual vocabulary.


As with so many topics in banjo playing, John Boulding has a free video lesson on this very point. As part of his Lick of the Week videos from earlier this century, he had a 4-lesson series on Understanding Licks:  Part 1: What is a Lick, Part 2: Licks as Filler, Part 3: Substituting Licks (for Melody), Part 4: Improvising with Licks.

Here's Part 3, full title: Using standard licks to substitute melody.  

Here's an index to all of his lessons.  Understanding Licks starts at #121.  I recommend al 4 to any players looking to understand how to work licks into their playing.

Oct 18, 2021 - 8:38:04 AM

4015 posts since 3/28/2008

quote:
Originally posted by USAF PJ

Thanks Ira, that makes sense to me. I am currently picking out "Working on a Building", my sense tells me to start on the on the high D and B strings. Open then 2nd fret, 5th fret, open, then open B. Not asking for a quick lesson here but...... any feedback from you is valued (going from memory on what I just wrote).


Glad that made sense! You'll notice that the melody to the verses of "WOAB" hangs out a LOT on the high root note (1st string 5th fret, in the key of G), and ends by making its way down to the root an octave lower (open 3rd string). The chorus hangs out a bunch on the fifth note of the scale (open 1st string), working its way down twice to the low root.

Oct 18, 2021 - 9:15:16 AM
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2971 posts since 2/10/2013

I have read the remark "If you don't find what you are playing difficult, you are not improving". I think this is true. We tend to "lean" toward things that are easier to accomplish. Find a tune that makes you concentrate and work hard and long to become playable. After learning tunes like this and being able to play them well, they must be played often.

If you are looking for a tune like, try Mike Heddings version of "Whisky Before Breakfast".
He has the tab and sound file. Find tunes that aren't full of licks you are already using.

Oct 18, 2021 - 11:01:14 AM

USAF PJ

USA

278 posts since 9/19/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Richard Hauser

I have read the remark "If you don't find what you are playing difficult, you are not improving". I think this is true. We tend to "lean" toward things that are easier to accomplish. Find a tune that makes you concentrate and work hard and long to become playable. After learning tunes like this and being able to play them well, they must be played often.

If you are looking for a tune like, try Mike Heddings version of "Whisky Before Breakfast".
He has the tab and sound file. Find tunes that aren't full of licks you are already using.


Thanks Dick, I know for many of us specific advice helps. I am going to take a look now on this beautiful afternoon.

Edited by - USAF PJ on 10/18/2021 11:04:44

Oct 18, 2021 - 11:38:35 AM
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Alex Z

USA

4594 posts since 12/7/2006

"Train yourself (if you're not doing so already) to make the connection between the licks or left-hand moves and the melodies to which they correspond. That way you don't have to figure out each individual note of a melody on the fly; you can assemble the melody out of chunks you already have in your musical/manual vocabulary."

Yes, this is what I was trying to say, but here more succinctly.  And that connection -- when done on the fly -- doesn't go through the conscious brain one note at a time.  And as noted there is "training" to acquire this ability (which often goes through a bit of crash and burn smiley ).

In a work shop several years ago, Bill Keith said he  works with sequences of two notes!  A lot of us are in the eight-note stage -- which can work OK, just not as creative and elegant as Mr. Bill.

Oct 19, 2021 - 3:23:02 AM

4501 posts since 12/6/2009

As to what Ira was eluding to, the one thing I have noticed with most modern BG banjo players is that they kind a drop the melody and use mostly chord related (I call) counter melodies) especially the melodic players....like Bill Monroe said, “ a whole lotta’ notes about nothing” lol

Oct 25, 2021 - 12:46:22 PM

731 posts since 2/15/2015

Listen to melodies, Bacharach, GAS tunes.

Pick one that exposes different elements. A real tunesmith piece.

What's it all about Alfie,
Is it just for the moment we met...

Figure out that one phrase, learn the key, learn the melodic line ,and learn how to play that melodic line of that simple phrase.

Then move on to the next phrase, same procedure. Move on to the next and the next...

Songs like Alfie will help develop your melodic sense more so than listening to a 3 chord song. 

Edited by - geoB on 10/25/2021 12:47:52

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