[Harp-L] Memorising Tunes

Chris Talbot ctalbot@xxxxx
Sun Oct 16 12:26:34 EDT 2016

I use a similar piece of software (Transcribe), and I find that by slowing
down the music and playing along with it, my memory is far better than
learning the same piece from tabs. That's not to say I don't use tabs any
more (I still think they're a great reference), but I find software like
Transcribe can help build up the mental memory of what a note actually
sounds like -- something that's not easy with tabs.

Carlos del Junco taught me techniques for using Transcribe; and they mostly
revolve around breaking down the song into parts, slowing it down and
playing small sections or single notes until you've got them in your memory
(and you're playing them correctly). If you're trying to determine what a
particular note is, turn the repeat function on so it only plays that note.
And then close your eyes, get the note in your head and then hum it or sing
it (or whistle or whatever). Make corrections until you've got that note.
Then find it on your harmonica. Match it.

This doesn't help if you don't know what key the song is in, of course.
Determining the key of a song is something I struggle with.

I'm only an advanced beginner or early intermediate, so I guess take all of
the above with a grain (or two) of salt. The method does work, though. :)


On Sun, Oct 16, 2016 at 7:29 AM, Leonard Schwartzberg <
leonard1 at xxxxx> wrote:

> John:   Thanks for the reference to "amazing slow downer".   The image of
> your "shorthand" did not come thru.   I'm not really good at learning
> merely by listening, but rather by reading the Tab first.   How do you
> (even hearing the piece at slow speed) figure out the key and the notes (or
> techniques) that are being used, by listening?   I'm having enough trouble
> memorizing the song with the notes in front of me (TAB), much less to
> figure it out without the notes.   Thanks, Leonard
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Harp-L [mailto:harp-l-bounces at xxxxx] On Behalf Of John Goodwin
> Sent: Saturday, October 15, 2016 7:43 PM
> To: Aongus Mac Cana
> Cc: Harp-L List
> Subject: Re: [Harp-L] Memorising Tunes
> Hi Angus
> Probably like others, I learned music at school, but didn't keep it up and
> was never particularly good at sight reading a music score.
> Over the years I became strictly an ear player. Though I didn't play with
> any bands on a regular basis that was until a couple of years ago.
> I've found that will all the new numbers and one song in particular I
> wanted to play I had to find a new way to learn the whole piece.
> I used 2 tools. Amazing Slow downer. A program that enables you to slow
> down any part of piece that will continuously loop. This is really useful
> so you can listen to difficult parts and hear every note that you in turn
> can copy.
> I was trying to learn a Carey Bell's version of "Last Night" from "Harp
> Legends Volume 1, Walter Horton and Carey Bell, Track 10 and I went over
> and over this in "Slow Downer" starting out at as low as 50% speed (it
> doesn't alter the pitch if unless you actually want to!)
> I found this a massive help working from a recording.
> I worked on small parts and added each block to the next over time.
> The other thing I did was come up with a sort of musical short hand. Not so
> much to tell me exactly what note to play so much as give me a visual aide
> to where the music should go.
> It was really a great help and now after much and continuing practice I've
> got it fixed in the memory now.
> Not sure if the picture will work of my music shorthand but here it is.
> I also used the same method with other pieces with good success.
> Hope this may help.
> [image: Inline images 1]
> On 13 October 2016 at 09:19, Aongus Mac Cana <amaccana at xxxxx> wrote:
> > I am eighty years old and an indifferent harmonica player  having come
> back
> > to it after a sixty year lay off.
> >
> > To tell the truth I was not even terrific at it sixty years ago.
> >
> > I have discovered at this late stage that I am totally an ear player.
> Harp
> > tab is about as much use to me as Sanskrit - I find ABC tab marginally
> > better. I only use sheet music or tab for forensic dissection of the bar
> I
> > can't get.
> >
> > I have been lucky enough to be able to attend the harmonica classes at
> the
> > Willie Clancy Summer School  given every year  by  Rick Epping and Mick
> > Kinsella.
> >
> > Rick Epping gave us one useful piece of advice: "If you have not got the
> > tune in your head you are unlikely to get it  out in your mouth."
> >
> > The advice from some of you  to learn the lyrics sounds good to me. This
> > ties in with a belief in Irish Trad circles that you won't  play a slow
> air
> > properly unless you know the words of the associated song (if there is
> > one).
> >
> > At the Willie Clancy School Rick and Mick teach us new tunes a bar or two
> > at
> > a time working through until we finally have the whole tune. I just
> ignore
> > the harmonica tab they give out as "I might as well be looking into a
> bush"
> >
> > I used to learn tunes by listening, then whistling them until I had them
> in
> > my head. Unfortunately a bang I got on my head a few years ago left me no
> > longer able to whistle. Now I have to rely on my imagination to play them
> > in
> > my mind.
> >
> > Life is too short to get hung up on playing a tune or a lick exactly as
> > some
> > other guy does it. Hell! The take you come up with yourself might be
> > better.
> >
> > Beannachtai
> >
> > Aongus Mac Cana
> >
> >
> ---
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Chris Talbot
Phone: 867-872-0822
Twitter: @NorthernTalbot
Skype: christalbot

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