Playing by Ear

| posted in: mandolin  repertoire 

For the most part I’ve been playing the mandolin by ear. I did pull out my Suzuki cello book 1 and played through several of the pieces there. On my own I figured out how to play “Amazing Grace” and lately I’ve been working on “Scotland the Brave”.

I was able to get perhaps 80% of “Scotland the Brave” on my own. Finally I hunted up a tab sheet for mandolin for that tune. What was interesting to me was how the version in my head is slightly different than the actual tune. Or at least this version of tune. Folk music is given to variations and this tune is no exception.

This is the first time I’ve used a tab sheet for mandolin. Or any instrument for that matter. It has the normal music notation (in treble clef - which I don’t yet read) and then it has a representation of the four strings with fret numbers running parallel to the music. What is odd about this is seeing a “5” on the sheet but playing the note with your 3rd finger.

I’ve been playing the cello since late 2009 and I still find memorizing a piece difficult. Frankly I don’t even try anymore. With the mandolin (a total of eight days now) I already have three (albeit short) piece memorized. Learning to play the tune by ear really reinforces the intervals between the notes. You hear immediately that the note is sour or incorrect. The trick is then finding the correct note. My hope is that as I gain experience playing by ear, that my interval recognition ability will improve, making it easier to know what the next note ought to be.


Author's profile picture

Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Mastodon.