Well, having played dances with you, Martha, I think that nobody could
reasonably accuse you of being too dependent on the dots. :)
And in the spirit of confession, everyone in my band either has a music
degree or has studied a lot of classical music before coming to traditional
music, so there are some foundational educational elements we all share
that are based on reading music.
But in thinking about Tom's initial postings over the course of the day,
boring music is boring music, whether it's written down or not.
If his bandmates have their noses stuck in the music at the expense of
listening to the other players, that might be a problem.
It also could be that they're not playing good tunes for dances. It's hard
to tell what would make a band "more interesting" to dance to without
I think familiarity with repertoire makes a big difference. I called with a
band recently that mostly plays old-time music, and they sound great. But I
made an offhanded comment about how a particular dance worked well with
jigs and the fiddler recalled a New England jig that he knew, but hadn't
played for a while and decided to try it, but the guitarist was not
comfortable backing jigs and ... the band did not sound as good on that
tune as they did when they were playing old-time reels.
On Fri, May 17, 2019 at 4:49 PM Martha Edwards <meedwards(a)westendweb.com>
Oh, dear. You got me. I have strong feelings about
this, largely because,
being lazy, I have never learned to play immediately by ear. But, having
made my living sight-reading for 25 (now 50?) years, I find no barrier
between me and music just because the dots are, well, lines and dots.
The important things, however, that the non-dot players mention, ARE
terribly important - that is
1. watching the dancers
2. listening to the other musicians
3. playing "musically" (by which I mean, knowing how to phrase, that
is, figuring out where the music is coming from, and where it's going to)
4. listening to great players in order to learn "style"- that is,
figuring out the character of each tune, and being able to vary that
character if wanted or needed
That said, the dots don't have to get in the way. An orchestra player, for
instance, MUST watch the conductor while playing, and a symphony violinist
MUST listen to all the other violinists and play *exactly *with them, and
MUST listen to the whole orchestra and understand the character of the
piece. That's totally like watching the dancers, listening to other
musicians and learning to play with style.
The problem comes when you first learn to play. If it's done right, you
have a good, musical model to follow (sounds like playing by ear, doesn't
it?) instead just playing one note after another, with no shape. The Suzuki
method's brilliance, IMHO, was in providing the children with recordings of
people playing Twinkle Twinkle (and all the other tunes) and getting their
parents to play those recordings over and over for their kids even before
they started learning to hold a violin. Then, when the kids start reading
music (late in the process) they automatically played what they had heard
(i.e., real music), and were able to figure out pretty quickly that those
"dots" are not just little lego pieces, but large sculptures of something
There's more, of course - improvisation, understanding harmonic
progression, etc. - and whether you read music or not influences those
things, too, in different ways, some useful, some not-so-useful.
And there's playing with others - if you give me your dots, we can start
playing together right away, but if I have to memorize your repertoire
first, we may have to wait a while.
Don't get me wrong. I totally admire people who can learn immediately by
ear, and if I had it to do over, would have learned how when I started
playing for dances, but please don't blame boring playing on reading
music. Instead, figure out how to play interestingly, no matter how you do
it, with or without dots.
On Fri, May 17, 2019 at 9:12 AM Meg Dedolph via Musicians <
Agreed. When I'm learning chords to a tune,
if I have them in front of
me, I tend to rely on the paper and play the same thing over and over. The
melody players in my band agree as well - we all try to learn things by ear
first, and use paper in a pinch.
Meg in Chicago
On Fri, May 17, 2019 at 8:52 AM Jeffrey Spero via Musicians <
I’m in complete agreement with Jeff Kaufman. If
you have the music in
front of you, you’re much more likely to play exactly what you see on the
page as opposed to being in the moment and playing WITH the other musicians
and FOR the dancers. For those that can play by ear, I encourage them to do
so. And for those who are uncomfortable with that, I encourage them to
learn the music off the page, and then put the music away while playing.
The other Jeff
Culver City, CA
On May 17, 2019, at 3:53 AM, tom hinds via
I’d like to know people’s opinion of using music while playing for a
Is it easier to create excitement if the musicians play by
ear? Thanks in advance for your opinion, Tom Hinds
Sent from my iPad
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on which we have not danced at least once. ~ Nietszche