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It's an interesting phrase. I wouldn't want to listen to ... Some people are "intuitively" visual learners, and some are aural.

Well as a musician who does a lot of both (playing things that I've only heard* the music to, and ... the music is sufficiently simple, it's impossible to hear *exactly what notes are involved, so you do a best guess.

If you're trying to play something from the
classical repertory, as it was composed,
then you don't muck about with playing "by ear" you get the music and play it properly. But for a
great deal of popular music and jazz, not to mention creating your own music, getting "exactly" the right notes (i.e., the exact notes that somebody else plays) isn't important. You do it your way.
For complex chromatic chords it requires a knack that few people have (I usually can work them out eventually, but rarely on first hearing).

That's what most "ear" players do work things out. If you take the time to learn the basic conventions of western harmony, you can manage most popular music with a little determination. I suppose there are a few human duplicating machines out there, who can play back exactly what they hear, but that's more of a parlour trick than a useful skill. There's more to making music than duplication.
OTOH, reading from sheet music is a very straight-forward process - it might take you a few goes to learn ... if it's a Rachmaninov concerto), but at least you are in no doubt as to what the notes should be.

A complete musician needs to be able to do both; to read well, and to work things out for himself.
Reading sheet music I see as a completely 'learned' process, whereas being able to hear a tune and copy it uses far more innate abilities.

That is learned too. I'm not sure what you mean by "more innate", but if you mean seldom used, that's pretty much the point I was making.
Almost all people with no training can sing a melody or tap a rhythm that have heard enough times previously ... on another instrument, and filling in the harmonies etc. etc. that gets recognised as the talent for 'playing by ear'.

Anyone who wants to do it, can do it. It wasn't
taught much when I was a kid, so I taught myself
to do it, first because it was easier for me than
learning to read (something to do with learning styles), and second because there was no sheet music for the stuff I wanted to play.

Michael West
Yo, dude! We've got the Web now, so why do ... dictionaries, grammar books, and literature? We can google everything now!

So (untangling the sarcasm), if I have a dictionary on my shelf, and I can access the same dictionary through the Web, you would advise me to consult the paper copy, not the electronic one?

Yes, usually, because it's quicker, you can annotate it, and you can do it in the bath or out in the garden. You can also compare versions much more conveniently.
Note that I say "usually". And as for reading real books on the screen, that's just sick.
Mike.
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Recipes are for people who don't know how to cook.

Nonsense! It's possible to be a good cook without knowing how to prepare all the dishes in the world.

SML
Dalg! Glidj! Blimlimlim!
http://pirate-women.com
Recipes are for people who don't know how to cook.

Nonsense! It's possible to be a good cook without knowing how to prepare all the dishes in the world.

My second wife was a fantastic cook. She hardly ever fixed the same thing twice (I had to specifically insist on encores of some things I really loved). That is hard to do without a cookbook to get ideas from.
Skitt (in Hayward, California)
www.geocities.com/opus731/
...
Reading sheet music I see as a completely 'learned' process, whereas being able to hear a tune and copy it uses far more innate abilities.

Not as innate (in the etymological meaning of "inborn") as you might think. At some point in your life you learned the ability to hear a tune and copy it; you even learned to hear whether two notes are the same or different (within the limits of your sense of pitch, which I imagine is quite good). You may not remember this, especially because it probably came easily to you at an early age, but you weren't born with it.
Almost all people with no training can sing a melody or tap a rhythm that have heard enough times previously -

As an exception, I suspect there are more exceptions than you might think.
it's taking to the level of playing it on another instrument, and filling in the harmonies etc. etc. that gets recognised as the talent for 'playing by ear'.

I agree there.

Jerry Friedman
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Well as a musician who does a lot of both ... what notes are involved, so you do a best guess.

If you're trying to play something from the classical repertory, as it was composed, then you don't muck about with ... getting "exactly" the right notes (i.e., the exact notes that somebody else plays) isn't important. You do it your way.

Actually I very much enjoy 'mucking' about with playing classical music by ear. It's too much effort and far too expensive to track down sheet music for everything that you might want to play. I can do a pretty good rendition of the start of both Grieg's A minor and Rach's F minor concertos without having seen the music to either. And as far as composition goes, I especially care about getting "exactly the right notes". But of course, it's me who gets to decide just what are the right notes.
Reading sheet music I see as a completely 'learned' process, whereas being able to hear a tune and copy it uses far more innate abilities.

That is learned too. I'm not sure what you mean by "more innate", but if you mean seldom used, that's pretty much the point I was making.

But it's what you do all the time when you sing 'Happy Birthday' or hum a Beatle's tune or whistle a Sousa march. Are you saying you had to learn how to do that?
Anyone who wants to do it, can do it. It wasn't taught much when I was a kid, so I ... to do with learning styles), and second because there was no sheet music for the stuff I wanted to play.

Even if it were true that if anyone could do it, it doesn't make it any less attached to some sort of innate ability, that some people obviously have more of than others. Even reading music depends on a certain amount of this.
My sight-reading, for instance, is not something I've ever practiced extensively, and yet just the other night at choir rehearsal after doing a few choruses from Elijah the lady in front of me turned around and said 'You must have sung this a few times before', to which I replied, 'Er, no, first time actually'. I'm pretty sure she didn't believe me.
What interests me is how you can justify the possibility that certain people have more musical ability than others from an evolutionary point-of-view...I've occasionally come across interesting theories, but nothing terribly convincing.
Dylan
it's taking to the level of playing it on another ... that gets recognised as the talent for 'playing by ear'.

I agree there.

But its important to understand that there's no
magic or special 'gift' involved. You can teach yourself to do it. It's rules-based behavior, just like reading music is. Different rules, is all.

Michael West
That is learned too. I'm not sure what you mean ... seldom used, that's pretty much the point I was making.

But it's what you do all the time when you sing 'Happy Birthday' or hum a Beatle's tune or whistle a Sousa march. Are you saying you had to learn how to do that?

You're switching contexts on me. Learning to
hum or whistle is one thing. Most children learn without a great deal of effort. Learning to play extended melody and harmony on an instrument, imitatively or creatively, rather than by reading, is simply an elaboration and refinement of that native ability, which most people have, but don't develop.
You've probably noticed that while some people can read and even memorize music quite well, they seem to disengage their inner ear when they do so. They play mechanically rather than in an affective mode. The music they "play" is not an extension or outflow of their innate melodicism, but a muscular activity. This is simply the result of bad teaching, not lack of "innate ability".
What interests me is how you can justify the possibility that certain people have more musical ability than others from an evolutionary point-of-view...I've occasionally come across interesting theories, but nothing terribly convincing.

Some people do seem to be "tone deaf", but aside
from that I think most people have more or less the same musical "innate ability". In most people it doesn't get used and developed. But this is a nature/nurture issue that we won't settle here.

Michael West
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
But its important to understand that there's no magic or special 'gift' involved. You can teach yourself to do it. It's rules-based behavior, just like reading music is. Different rules, is all.

While I agree in general, just as in everything, there are exceptions. I have a friend whom I love dearly, but the poor woman cannot tell the difference between two notes of different pitch to save her life. Or rather, she can tell they're different (assuming they're far enough apart), but she can't distinguish between a diminished fifth and an octave.
So it seems there is at least some portion of gift, or talent if you like, required for any musical ability. And I personally believe it's a different sort of gift to play by ear vs. by notes. Now, I agree with you that it's a trainable one; I remember spending a year in high school with a music theory teacher who taught us to transcribe four-part harmony, given a note somewhere in the initial chord. But I know that when learning songs by sight, I use different parts of my brain than when I teach it to myself by ear.
-=Eric

Come to think of it, there are already a million monkeys on a million typewriters, and Usenet is NOTHING like Shakespeare. Blair Houghton.
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