The other day I got the Jig of Slurs stuck in my head and I wanted to try and work it out by ear. Now I find two general things challenging in the area of ear learning. One is learning the tune well enough that I don't get confused about it when I make mistakes trying to play it. The second is figuring out where to start.
The second problem generally involves a good bit of trial and error for me, but this time I realized the solution was easy. The Jig of Slurs is a pipe tune, so it has to be in A mixolydian, since that's the only key the GHBs can play! This is a pretty useful shortcut if, like me, you haven't yet learned how to reliably distinguish all of the modes by ear.
Learning tunes "by ear" is something of a euphamism for me since I tend to memorize the tune first and then try to play it later, instead of playing along with a recording. One thing which has been helpful for this process is to lilt the songs instead of humming (or playing) them when learning. There are several reasons I think this is helpful:
- It divorces knowledge of the tune itself from the technical ability to play it, allowing me to focus on really learning the tune.
- Lilting is less forgiving than humming in terms of making you get the tune right. When I hum I tend to slur notes a bit, and this makes it easy to gloss over notes that I don't have right in my memory. With lilting it's harder to get away with this.
I tried to find a link about lilting, but I can't find anything. Any suggestions? The best suggestion I have is to listen to a good recording. I'm enjoying Colm O'Donnell's excellent Farewell to Evening Dances, which features lilting, singing, whistle, and flute.