In this section we expand upon the issue of how the method of learning affects what you learn and thus what you play. In the previous section I think I demonstrated pretty clearly that when you listen to a tune you will hear a lot that's not in the written notation. For most transcriptions this would include things like ornamentation, harmony, variations and more.
These differences can affect your attitude toward the tune, how likely you are to play melodic variations, your understanding of the tune, and more. We will look at these differences, and then at the possibility of combining learning by ear with the use of written notation. But first a bit on the importance of supporting one's opinions with evidence.
But first I need to say something about why I think this discussion should be evidence-based rather than opinion-based, and why this topic can be tricky to evaluate because we have to interpret research findings carefully. Then on the next page we'll start to look at the actual effects of learning style more carefully.
Learning Tunes (By Ear & Reading)
Did you take another look at the comparison between what's in the sheet music and what's in the playing of a fiddler? If not I strongly encourage you to do so before going on; it will make what I'm saying much more salient.
If you learn primarily from written music, you'll probably end up playing music very differently from if you learn primarily by listening.
The importance of evidence.
The importance of valid evidence. Playing by Ear: Is Expert Opinion Supported by Research?
She pointed out that sometimes it's not obvious how learning occurs. For example, imagine that you're at Maine Fiddle Camp — a cheerful thing to imagine as I write this in December! We're in class, and Don Roy is teaching the Rimouski. After playing it a few times, he breaks it down into phrases. He plays each phrase, and we try to play it back; that continues until most of us have it and then we go on to the next phrase. If you’ve been to Maine Fiddle Camp or Ashokan, or to any fiddle class at a camp or workshop, you know how that goes.
Using the evidence. It's important to consider that evidence doesn't always support our favorite theories, but unless we have reason to doubt the evidence we need to consider changing our ideas to fit the evidence; the reverse, as tempting as it may be, just doesn't work!
Complications arise because there are sometimes other factors that may be relevant that aren't obvious, and sometimes evidence isn't clearcut.
On the next page we'll look at how learning by ear and learning from notation can produce different kinds of learning. Click the arrow to continue.