[Harp-L] We're all here to have a good time, trooper.

Emily Keene esalisburykeene@xxxxx
Sat Jul 29 04:24:12 EDT 2017

Rick Dempster wrote:

> Seconded. I never learnt a thing off tabs. Not only that, but despite
> having taught myself to
> read music (very slowly) it takes me forever to learn by heart a piece of
> music delivered to
> me in 'dots'. Like tab, it just doesn't 'sink in', even if I can actually
> play it from the sheet.
> If I learn it by ear, it's there forever; and yes, you get better at it
> quite quickly.
> Even if you memorise from tab, it won't help you improvising, or picking
> things up, generally.
> No harm, in writing your own tab, however, as a memory helper

Though I admire those with the skill, I share Mr. Dempster's difficulty in
learning a piece of music "cold" from sheet music. My straight job has
required me to learn a bit about how memory works, and how it works
differently in different people. Even though we all have roughly eighty to
a hundred billion neurons in our brains, the way they are connected and the
way we connect them is different in each of us, and to say there is only
one right or wrong way to do it is silly. How we consciously turn something
from being a passing sensory experience into a long-term memory is just
beginning to be understood, but it usually involves something psychologists
call "meaningful rehearsal". Being able to access a stored memory seems to
have something to do with how we've chosen (consciously or unconsciously)
to link memories to each other. In Western society, we have tended to
organize our brains in a visual way(and it seems to get more so every day),
but it's not the only way. I've  read that in normally sighted people, the
rear part of our brain, the occipital lobe, is largely devoted to vision,
but at least in some people who are blind from birth, that portion of the
brain has been repurposed for hearing, and through echolocation, some of
the blind can build "pictures" of their surroundings. I've used tablature
for the 5-string banjo for close to fifty years (and because there are
often multiple ways of making the same note, tablature is very useful for
that instrument) I've never tried to use it for the harmonica,
mainly  because (to me) the harmonica is a lot less visual than the banjo
(unless you bug your eyes out a lot) and the "muscle memory" you use is a
lot more like the muscle memory you would use for singing-and it's darned
hard to see those muscle too. That said, over time, I've learned to
associate banjo tablature with certain sounds and can often tell how
something is going to sound by reading a tab in the Banjo Newsletter by
referencing my mental catalogue of banjo licks. Tab and "dots" are both
visual systems utilizing mathematics for describing a physical action to
produce a sound by referencing memories you've already made, and neither is
perfect. Forty-five years after taking "Ear Training and Sight Singing" (I
got an "A" by the way, one of the few in my academic career), I'm finally
concentrating on intervals and scale degrees, so sometimes to get started
remembering  a tune I'll say to myself, "Fifth degree of the scale, below
the tonic, repeat, go up a fourth and play the tonic once, and up a full
step, and up another step" (Home on the Range"). Though I could go on for
hours,fortunately for all, I'm going to end here. Whatever works. Cheers,

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