Here's my approach to learning tunes, I hope this may help some people, and perhaps other people have a different approach that could help myself and others, so please chip in.

 

1/ I hear a tune that I would like to learn (at a session, youtube, internet, somewhere)

2/ I try to find the name of the tune, not to find the ABCs (in general the ABCs are just a rough notion of how the tune is played) I look for the name in order to find a recording and listen to how good players play the tune.

 

3/ To find the name I will typically use http://tunepal.org and by listening by ear I will note down the first 15 - 20 notes, 9 times out of 10 tunepal will get your tune, you can verify by listening to the midi files from the search results.

This week I discovered to my amazement that I could play any tune into tunepal and using the record function it would find the name of the tune, this week I took the recordings from my weekly session and used tunepal to look for the names it found about 25 out 28 tunes... (I had been doing this part manually before, but doing it manually is not a bad idea either, it's great for training you ear and more satisfying when you find the name)

 

4/ Once I have found the tune name, I look for recordings, youtube, amazaon CDs etc.. in France I use http://www.deezer.com which has loads of Irish trad CDs and has the full tune..

 

5/ I then decide which recording I would prefer to learn from, and start to learn by ear from that recording, sometimes I will take the ABCs and change them to what I have learned from the recording.

 

6/ in learning by ear, I sometimes slow the tune down, in order to find the exact notes, but once I have the notes, I will go back to full speed listening, as listening to something slowed down for too long is not great as you will tend to copy it.

 

7/ Also when you are learning it's important to keep listening to the recording, because if you listen to yourself too long you will tend to copy yourself.

 

8/ I then try and play along with the recorded version.

 

9/ I then try and get to a session and play with others.

 

Oh yeah, I don't have a teacher, the best way would be to learn with a real live person.

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Typically by the time I get around to learning a tune I've heard it a lot already at sessions or in my record collection and have a decent familiarity with the melody.  In the case that I'm learning a tune for someone else or for an upcoming gig or event then I'll get a recording or two of the tune and put it in my ears for a few days repeatedly as I'm driving or working and become familiar with the melody. 

When I actually sit down to learn the thing I usually try to get it at full speed first by repeating a phrase at a time until I can discern the notes being played.  In the few cases where I can't get it I'll slow it down if necessary.  Once I've got the tune I usually will transcribe my version in abc notation and perhaps make a few extra notes on variations I've come up with.  I usually spend at least a good week getting to know a tune before I'm really confident on it but typically I can play it pretty well after an hour or so of learning it.  Once the tune is learned it's pretty easy to listen to other recordings to get new variations on it.

For me, there are 2 reasons for learning a new tune:

1. To be a better participant within a session (Just learning the set list or as much as I can pick up)

2. Tunes that appeal to me.

The learning flow for me is: LISTEN, IDENTIFY, LOOK, AND PLAY (Practice)

LISTEN: I take a small digital recorder wherever/whenever I'm in a session or group of musicians, etc.

IDENTIFY: via "Tunepal", ask individuals, research, etc. 

LOOK: ABC format, tab, scoresheet, or recordings (by ear) or "All The Above"

PLAY: Practice, Practice, Practice!!!

I had to learn a jig as one of my session group were playing it. I went on the attached site, played the tune a couple of times, maybe about 3 times, then I played along with it for about 10 times and have the basic. Now I will have to work on a few variations. Its actually a nice easy jig. Don't know how common it is. Worth trying for anyone starting out, also easy to pick up by ear Killavil Jig

I frequently use "BestPractice" - an MP3/CD-player for the computer - when learning new songs. You can slow down songs, you can change the pitch in the recording so you don't need to retune your instrument and you can create define a start and end point in the song that is then looped.  It's free and can be downloaded here:

http://download.cnet.com/BestPractice/3000-2133_4-10794555.html?tag...

 

Cheers!

 


Hi Patrik,

I just downloaded BestPractice, nice little tool and very easy to use, a lot easier the audacity.....

Thanks for that,

 

John

 

Patrik Månsson said:

I frequently use "BestPractice" - an MP3/CD-player for the computer - when learning new songs. You can slow down songs, you can change the pitch in the recording so you don't need to retune your instrument and you can create define a start and end point in the song that is then looped.  It's free and can be downloaded here:

http://download.cnet.com/BestPractice/3000-2133_4-10794555.html?tag...

 

Cheers!

Hi John,

Glad to hear that!  I've heard of "The Amazing Slow-downer" but since you need to pay for it and BestPractice is free - the choice was simple since my needs are rather basic.  I use Audacity to edit recordings - mostly from Irish sessions.

 

Have a nice evening,

Patrik


John F said:

 


Hi Patrik,

I just downloaded BestPractice, nice little tool and very easy to use, a lot easier the audacity.....

Thanks for that,

 

John

 

Patrik Månsson said:

I frequently use "BestPractice" - an MP3/CD-player for the computer - when learning new songs. You can slow down songs, you can change the pitch in the recording so you don't need to retune your instrument and you can create define a start and end point in the song that is then looped.  It's free and can be downloaded here:

http://download.cnet.com/BestPractice/3000-2133_4-10794555.html?tag...

 

Cheers!

I often use "Transcribe" to learn tunes, especially if I want to find out, how a sound is produced. "Transcribe" does the same as "BestPractice, but it shows a graph of the soundfile, which makes it easier to see, where you are. And you can create marks in the soundfile and save them. Very good features for me. But it's not for free ($39).

Cheers!

This is such great information, I will have to read through more carefully over the weekend. 

I started playing using tabs because I didn't read music ( I still don't sight read, but I can figure out the notes ), and the problems that I had with this method were that I would learn the notes, and play them the way I thought they should sound, then at my lesson, my teacher would try to teach me the tune the way it should be played.  Well, I had already gotten the bowing pattern and tune down one way and had a very hard time changing this.  Then about a year ago, I forced myself to learn by ear and it made the process much easier.

I went to a session on Wednesday night, and there were some tunes that I would like to learn, but I didn't know what they were.  tunepal.org sounds like a great addition.  I usually use Windows media player to slow down what I tape from my lessons.

Kathy

Windows Media Player works to slow down, but the quality of the output is better with Transcribe.

David

I've used The Amazing Slow Downer software for a few years now.  It's simple and the free version did well for me until I started feeling guilty and paid for it.  I'm thrilled that it was able to transcribe a Bb waltz to G so easily.

 

I learn tunes mostly by ear.  It helps immensely if I also have the sheet music while I'm drumming the tune into my head.  I tend to miss the subtle parts if I don't.  Sometimes if sheet music isn't available I'll wing it then get ribbed for evolving the tune from my paper trained friends.  Anyway just got another 20 tunes to work on this week so I'd better get at 'em.

I learned to read standard notation when I was 7 years old. I get the sheet music and learn from that.  I understand that what I hear at session may be different, but I can compensate.

I agree more or less with your opening list, John F. With the exception that I mostly tend to concentrate on learning new tunes that I hear from people that I can play with. Generally I'll record same, listen and then have a go. Patience and trust in your own ear usually works but if I'm frustrated by a particular phrase, I'll then try and get a name for the tune (using your type of method), look for ABC or recordings to see if another approach will get me over the hump. Failing that, I just wait till the next time I meet the person and ask them about the 'tricky' bit.

The time it takes to 'learn' a tune varies widely, I find. Some fall easily under the fingers, either because they suit your particular instrument and/or you've come across many of the phrases in other tunes. Others are stubborn and need much more listening and work.

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