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Thread: Reading music

  1. #26

    Default Re: Reading music

    If you know how to match the violin fingerboard (with the tapes beginners use for finger positions) to a mandolin fretboard, this website is a good way to ingrain the connection between the notes on the page and the finger placement on the instrument. Basically, the red tape is the second fret, yellow tape is the fourth fret, green tape is fifth fret, and blue tape is seventh fret.

    http://www.violinflashcards.com/

  2. #27

    Default Re: Reading music

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    A quick search led me to this article. Wow. In all my childhood band years playing clarinet, I never knew that when I played a C everyone was hearing a Bb. So do I understand correctly? If I had sneaked a look at the music the flute player a couple chairs away was playing, there would be a different key signature on their sheet? Or are the written notes just shifted on my clarinet sheet?
    Haha I had exactly the same response when I read this today. I played clarinet as a child and never had a clue it was transposed. Now I play harmonica and didnít bother with written music until I picked up the mandolin in August and started re-learning how to read music.

  3. #28
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Reading music

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    A quick search led me to this article. Wow. In all my childhood band years playing clarinet, I never knew that when I played a C everyone was hearing a Bb. So do I understand correctly? If I had sneaked a look at the music the flute player a couple chairs away was playing, there would be a different key signature on their sheet? Or are the written notes just shifted on my clarinet sheet?
    Yea, the clarinet parts are transposed, so that to the player it is seamless. All the clarinet player need do is read the music in front of him/her. I played clarinet in high school and jr. high. I also played alto clarinet, which was in Eb.

    So, thinking of it that way, the mandolin is a C instrument, like flute, and piano.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

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  4. #29
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    Default Re: Reading music

    Sue, when I was in school band, I started on Bb (standard) clarinet, too. Learned all the fingering and music reading. After a couple of years I joined the concert band and was asked to switch to Eb (alto) clarinet. Amazingly (to me, anyway), I didn't have to relearn anything. All the fingerings were the same for notes on the scores I played from. But my score was written in a different key than the score being read by the Bb clarinet players. My open G note was not the same as the Bb clarinet's open G note. And neither of us were playing the REAL G note on a piano or mandolin. It was a real convenience to be able to switch back and forth between instruments without relearning all the note names for the associated fingerings. But it was also a real communication problem sometimes.

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  6. #30
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Reading music

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    An issue you will have to work out over time that I do not believe anyone mentioned is that most of the notes on a mandolin can be played in multiple places. This is true for any stringed instrument including violin.
    That's certainly something to be aware of. However, if the OP plays pipes, I'm making the (possibly unfounded) assumption that the musical interest will be in similar areas, such as Scottish or Irish trad, possibly OldTime. What we generically call "fiddle tunes" that span several related genres of music.

    If that's the case, then one will normally play the mandolin (or fiddle) in first position, where there usually isn't much ambiguity about which fret or open string note to use.

    You can tell I play mostly Irish and Scottish trad on mandolin because literally all the fret wear is in the first five or six frets! About the only time I ever get out of first position with this music is the occasional tune with a reach up to a high C note, or an O'Carolan harp piece with a wider range.

    I know there is an argument that to be a "well rounded musician" one should have full command of the fretboard, and be aware of all the different voicings available. However, the use of open strings as drones and the need for speed in some of the faster reels keeps me in first position on mandolin. At least for Irish/Scottish trad. If I played Bluegrass, Rock, Blues, or Jazz I'd be all over the neck.

  7. #31
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Reading music

    Quote Originally Posted by HonketyHank View Post
    Sue, when I was in school band, I started on Bb (standard) clarinet, too. Learned all the fingering and music reading. After a couple of years I joined the concert band and was asked to switch to Eb (alto) clarinet. Amazingly (to me, anyway), I didn't have to relearn anything. All the fingerings were the same for notes on the scores I played from. But my score was written in a different key than the score being read by the Bb clarinet players. My open G note was not the same as the Bb clarinet's open G note. And neither of us were playing the REAL G note on a piano or mandolin. It was a real convenience to be able to switch back and forth between instruments without relearning all the note names for the associated fingerings. But it was also a real communication problem sometimes.

    edit: I see JeffD and I have a lot in common from the old days!
    This is exactly why it is done this way. The fingering for all woodwind instruments is very similar. By transposing parts players can switch from oboe (in C) to English horn (in F) or between Bb, A, and Eb clarinets without their heads exploding. Recorder players learn to adjust fingerings: soprano and tenor recorders are in C while alto is in F. All the music is written at concert pitch rather than put into a different key for the alto player.

    Sue, yes, different parts are written in different key signatures. This may be why conductors get so cranky, as the score has several different key signatures on lines on the same page.

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  9. #32
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    Default Re: Reading music

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    An issue you will have to work out over time that I do not believe anyone mentioned is that most of the notes on a mandolin can be played in multiple places. This is true for any stringed instrument including violin. For example the seventh fret on each of the bottom three strings is the same as the next open string higher. To start it is best to learn in first position then learn higher positions up the neck. This is one of the reasons for the predominance of tab in parallel with standard notation. The tab can give you information like finger placement choices and different ways of expressing tied notes and slurs that does not normally show in standard notation..
    A good observation for a beginner to be aware of. However, the book I mentioned in #16, "ALFRED'S TEACH YOURSELF TO PLAY MANDOLIN", does demonstrate the 7th fret it will not teach a beginner to play in the second or 3rd position.
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  10. #33
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    Default Re: Reading music

    Two books that helped me over the hurdle of becoming a reader in my late 50s: Standard Notation for the Tab Addicted Mandolinist by Debora Chen, and Basic Rhythmic Training by Robert Starer. I was hopeless until I worked through these two books. Chen's helped me recognize pitches, Starer's helped me learn how to read complex rhythms. I still can't sight read a piece cold, but I can work through most things and learn them off of a page.

  11. #34

    Default Re: Reading music

    Hi Oldsoldier181. It has already been mentioined, but I found Marilynn Mair's "The Complete Mandolinist" to be an outstanding book from which to learn to read music. When I started playing mandolin, I had never played any instrument and could not read music. Starting from the beginning in the book, I have learned to read music . Her book also teaches to play in second and third position. I am still very much a newbie, but have learned a lot!

    And thanks, Louise, for your input. I know a C scale on a mandolin is played with no sharps or flats, but did not know it was called a C instrument or that clarinets and other woodwinds were something other than C instruments. Very informative, as usual.

  12. #35
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Reading music

    I have great respect for all the jazz woodwind players that can play in all of the keys and freely improvise over any of the progressions.

  13. #36
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Reading music

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Hall View Post
    I have great respect for all the jazz woodwind players that can play in all of the keys and freely improvise over any of the progressions.
    Not just woodwind players and not just jazz players, of course. Most highly skilled musicians can do that. I have been playing through some violin scale books and they cover all keys.
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  15. #37
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    Default Re: Reading music

    I taught myself to read music by finding a tune that I already knew how to play and relating the notes to my finger positions.

    The tune was Soldier's Joy on the first page of Kerr's Merry Melodies vol 1.

    I was much younger then with a lot more time and patience for such things.

    More recently I noticed when learning tunes from pipe music that it had no key signature but was written as if played in D with two sharps. However it seems most actual pipe band pipes are tuned so the A note in that scale is in somewhere between A and Bb. Not that I want to play along with pipes. When a Piper enters the room, time to put the mandolin down.
    Bren

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    Default Re: Reading music

    My usual suggestion is to get a book of songs you know the melodies too like the Beatles, nursery rhymes or Christmas tunes for example. Sometimes the books designated as “easy versions” have nice clear and readable notation. Make sure the book has no tablature in it and is for C instruments and just fight your way through it. No better way to learn by doing I say. I played over 20 years without knowing how to read now it doesn’t scare me a bit.

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    Default Re: Reading music

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    An issue you will have to work out over time that I do not believe anyone mentioned is that most of the notes on a mandolin can be played in multiple places. This is true for any stringed instrument including violin. For example the seventh fret on each of the bottom three strings is the same as the next open string higher. To start it is best to learn in first position then learn higher positions up the neck. This is one of the reasons for the predominance of tab in parallel with standard notation. The tab can give you information like finger placement choices and different ways of expressing tied notes and slurs that does not normally show in standard notation.

    On the other note, the whole transposing score thing Louise mentioned, for wind instruments blew my mind when I first encountered it working with saxophone players. It seems horribly cumbersome. The guys I know can switch and play a standard score as well because they have spent a lot of years working with accordionists and other keyboards who do not use transposed scores. They essentially had to learn to read the scores two ways. And to make it worse alto and tenor sax are different transpositions so if you play both you have to learn another system.
    My first instrument, 63 years ago, was the guitar. I already knew about keys and scales and notation, from music classes in school. The beginning of my journey was to find the scales and simple melodies on the fretboard, in first position, in each major key, starting with C, then traveling around the circle of fifths both directions: C, F, G, Bb, D, ... Next step was to transpose the C and F major scales to higher positions. My knowledge of theory
    helped make things connect.

    When I got started on the mandolin 10 years later, my approach was much less systematic, and not to be recommended to beginners: I simply started playing. However, I did get a useful tip, in fact the only instruction I ever had: in the beginning, don't use open strings at all, use only moveable shapes. In time, of course, I realized that pick economy or other technical considerations, many times called for the use of open strings (one beautiful example is the fiddle tune Brilliancy, which I transcribed from a record in 1965) although yet today I avoid leaving a string on an open note.


    "The tab can give you information like finger placement choices and different ways of expressing tied notes and slurs that does not normally show in standard notation". Tabs usually give *one* fingering, which may not be optimal: it's for you to decide. As someone said on a steel guitar forum: if there are four ways of executing a phrase, why not explore all four? Slurs, etc: listen to records, absorb, adopt, what you like. Again, by exploring.

  18. #40

    Default Re: Reading music

    Quote Originally Posted by Bren View Post
    I taught myself to read music by finding a tune that I already knew how to play and relating the notes to my finger positions.

    The tune was Soldier's Joy on the first page of Kerr's Merry Melodies vol 1.

    I was much younger then with a lot more time and patience for such things.

    More recently I noticed when learning tunes from pipe music that it had no key signature but was written as if played in D with two sharps. However it seems most actual pipe band pipes are tuned so the A note in that scale is in somewhere between A and Bb. Not that I want to play along with pipes. When a Piper enters the room, time to put the mandolin down.
    This is true. We play one scale, and only 9 notes. No flats, no sharps, nothing like that at all. Looking back on it, it was quite simple.
    I want to thank everyone here for their suggestions, and the conversations around it. I had an online lesson last night, and, working through a fiddle tune book, it is STARTING to make sense. I know it will take time, but, I am beginning to make sense of it. Using a well known tune to start with, makes it easier. As, not being familiar with the fret board, but certainly the song, I know when I am wrong. Associating the notes on paper with the appropriate notes on the board, will come with time.
    This is like learning a new language. I can read the letters, I just need to figure out the patterns to put them into words, then sentences

  19. #41
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Reading music

    I find it much easier to memorize music from notation than from tab. I think the visual of the melody and the intervals between the notes is helpful.

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  21. #42

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    I suggest a Fiddlers Fakebook. There's even a primer in the front. It's almost better for me if i don't know the melody. Try to grind it out via notation, then listen to a version afterward to compare. The more i did it, it got easier. But the first few were painful. I still can't site-read.

  22. #43
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    Default Re: Reading music

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Hall View Post
    I find it much easier to memorize music from notation than from tab. I think the visual of the melody and the intervals between the notes is helpful.
    It is. Because, at least in my case, I don't connect individual notes on the page with individual frets. It's more about connecting whole phrases with intervals, scale and chord forms, boxes, etc. Furthermore, I play two instruments, and most of the tunes I would learn from a written source, e.g., tunes from the Great American Songbook, are not available in TAB for these instruments. And, anyway, whenever I learn a tune from notation, I will never play it exactly that way, perhaps not even the same key.

    In an earlier thread on TAB and TABs I asked how people go about transposing a song they know in TAB only. No one answered.

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  24. #44
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    Default Re: Reading music

    “A song they know in TAB only”

    Somehow this just doesn’t compute for me. I can only go by my own experience ... I don’t know any song in TAB only, or any in notation only. I might use SN or TAB to learn or study about playing a song, but the songs I know are known by heart.

    As for transposing a song, I’ve never really used either form of notation for that, just suss it out by ear.

    Is it easier to sight read TAB than SN? Yes - TAB is not useful to me for sight reading. Would it be easier to transpose a song I DON’T know using SN? Yes, I wouldn’t find TAB useful for that.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Reading music

    Many moons ago I payed a coffeehouse gig and a very nice sincere audience member asked me at the end, "How do you ever play all that without music?" I told her half-jokingly that the music is in the instruments and voices and the stuff on the page is only a written code which tells you how to play it. She didn't quite understand.
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  26. #46
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    Default Re: Reading music

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    ... audience member asked me at the end, "How do you ever play all that without music?"
    Hey, I've asked that question! But that was to a neighbor's son who's in the Oberlin Conservatory piano program. Whenever he has a major concert or exam requiring performance AND he's at home, mom hosts a livingroom pot-luck dinner + concert for him to run through. (Yes, with some sacrifice, she DID spring for a Steinway!) Six or eight pieces at maybe 8 to 12 minutes each, and not a sheet of music to be seen... Sure impresses the heck outta me!
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  28. #47
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Reading music

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    Hey, I've asked that question! But that was to a neighbor's son who's in the Oberlin Conservatory piano program. Whenever he has a major concert or exam requiring performance AND he's at home, mom hosts a livingroom pot-luck dinner + concert for him to run through. (Yes, with some sacrifice, she DID spring for a Steinway!) Six or eight pieces at maybe 8 to 12 minutes each, and not a sheet of music to be seen... Sure impresses the heck outta me!
    Just think about all the amazing neural connections being formed in his brain.

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