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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.

I didn't say anything about how accurately they might be able to do it. I would still grant that even my desperately tone-deaf sister "can" - in a manner of speaking - "sing" a melody that she has heard previously. Whether anyone is likely to stick around to hear the result is another story altogether.
And I'm sure if I tap out a rhythm long* *long* *short* *short* *long, you'd be able to copy it.
Dylan
I have a friend whom I love dearly, but the poor woman cannot tell the difference between two notes of ... can tell they're different (assuming they're far enough apart), but she can't distinguish between a diminished fifth and an octave.

Yes, some people are "tone deaf". Yet they still seem able to respond to music on some sort of emotional basis, though it beats me how that can be possible.
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.

Yes, it's a different learning style. No argument from me there. My argument is that the "ear" part should be equal or even dominant for any real music-making to happen, and that in the pedagogy that was prevalent for much of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was sorely neglected. The great composers of the past were great improvisors the music poured from their hearts to their fingers to their keyboards. Transcribing it was a separate excercise.

Michael West
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
I have a friend whom I love dearly, but the ... she can't distinguish between a diminished fifth and an octave.

Yes, some people are "tone deaf". Yet they still seem able to respond to music on some sort of emotional basis, though it beats me how that can be possible.

I am one of them. I think so, anyway. I can't carry a tune. I can recognize the sound of something off in a tune, but if the whole tune was off I wouldn't notice. My wife - a piano player and former chorus member - says I am tone deaf.
I've a passion for trad music. Many of the trad songs share similar roots and I can pick out a bit of one tune within another piece. I can give you the name of a song from just a few bars, but I can't hum it so anyone would recognize it. A CD by Gaughan is currently playing, and a Horslips CD is up next.
The great composers of the past were great improvisors the music poured from their hearts to their fingers to their keyboards. Transcribing it was a separate excercise.

How does this work for, say, string quartets or choral music in many independent parts? And not all composers have had much keyboard facility: Berlioz was one, I seem to remember reading.
Alan Jones
The great composers of the past were great improvisors ... fingers to their keyboards. Transcribing it was a separate excercise.

How does this work for, say, string quartets or choral music in many independent parts? And not all composers have had much keyboard facility: Berlioz was one, I seem to remember reading.

I was thinking primarily of solo improvisation
though certainly not limited to keyboard players;
I should have written "instrument".
Ensemble improvisation is far from unknown in
the so-called classical tradition, but requires some pretty clear ground rules (as is the case with jazz). Players or singers in an ensemble can take turns
improvising over a ground bass, while the others play the supporting harmony. The annoyingly popular "Canon" of Pachelbel would be a perfect vehicle for such carryings on, as would many old airs with simple and repetitive harmonic structures (the one known to us as
"Greensleeves" for example). This is what people did for amusement of old.
I've read that soloists in classical concerto-style works (featuring a soloist doing fancy stuff while accompanied by the orchestra playing a supporting
role) were frequently given to flights of daring
improvisation, not just in the open-ended cadenza
passages, but throughout the exposition.

Michael West
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Yes, some people are "tone deaf". Yet they still seem ... basis, though it beats me how that can be possible.

I am one of them. I think so, anyway. I can't carry a tune. I can recognize the sound of ... off I wouldn't notice. My wife - a piano player and former chorus member - says I am tone deaf.

Out of interest, have you ever tried having lessons to overcome it? There are those who say anybody can be taught to sing in tune; and there must be implications for speakers of tonal languages.

(I remember thinking that Yeats must have had the same difficulty on hearing recordings of him reciting his own work.)
Mike.
At the risk of seeming to commercialize this column, I'd like to call your attention to arecent CD which puts classically trained improvisers into a large acoustic chamber ensemble, and frames their improv in a setting that combines classical elements with a jazz sensibility and dynamic.
I think this music touches on the areas under discussion in this thread.
Hear samples from this CD, "October" at www.larrychernicoff.com.
I've

Oy!
a passion for trad music.

Trad what, Coop? Trad Hiberno-Brito-supremacist music? What are the outer boundaries of "trad"? Would you accept traditional French music as "trad"? Norwegian? Greek? Korean? Sudanese? Or is it only Hiberno-Brito-supremacist music that qualifies for the "trad" label?

EMWTK.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Areff typed thus:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055026/combined

David
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