Little Geese: The Ocarina Forum

Playing by ear in any key
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Author:  Circle of Fifths [ 08 Dec 2013, 14:14 ]
Post subject:  Playing by ear in any key

Since Karen has asked how, I'll post my method for playing along with any song by ear. My original was post here: Jack has a different approach that he also mentioned on the same thread while thoroughly arguing the matter. I'd be interested in others' feedback about my approach, though I don't think Jack and I need to go the rounds again here. It works very well for me.

Rationale. Yeonriji on midi is great, but wouldn't you enjoy playing with a band of mixed instruments in any key or playing all the songs you choose from your own music collection, with the original full band, orchestral, and/or vocals as backup? These are much more musically rich experiences, ones that I wouldn't want to miss. They are also effectively educational and motivational. The sheet music and backtracks often aren't available and only a fraction of songs are near the key signature of the most common ocarinas (Tenor G and Alto C). I'm talking about all genres, not limiting it to music arranged for ocarinas or folk music in certain traditional keys. So either you have to be a musical genius and be willing to frequently finger a large number of sharps and flats (which is much more challenging for serious scores on the ocarina than on a non-transposing instrument like the piano), or you have to take a very strategic approach such as the one I'll describe here. I drew on piano experience and took significant pains to research, plan, and extensively employ this strategy, including corresponding with several leading makers. Although I do recommend learning to access the rich musical world of sheet music, if you solely follow this approach it is not even required. If it doesn't make sense to you after this main article, read the links and some of the commentary. The goal of this approach is to dive right into playing with real music without inefficient delay, and the key is to distribute ocarinas around the Circle of Fifths and treat them all the same. It could hardly be simpler: you only have to deal with an occasional sharp or flat or two, and they're always in the same predictable locations. It's also a great springboard into more technical things like transposing sheet music in your head. Hopefully you will soon find yourself playing songs that weren't accessible to you before as you branch out to the rest of the circle of fifths.

Keys. First you need to understand the Circle of Fifths (illustrated on my avatar). A song could be in any one of 12 keys signatures with up to six sharps or flats. The key of C major and its relative minor (A) at the top have no sharps (#) or flats (b). G to the right adds one sharp, D adds two, and so forth clockwise in the order F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#. Moving counterclockwise from C, F adds one flat, Bb adds two flats, and so forth in the the order Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb. Do a google image search for the Circle of Fifths to see an image like my avatar but with sheet music indicators of these sharps and flats. Have you noticed that the bottom key of Gb is the same thing as F#, and can be played with either six sharps or six flats? Now if your ocarina is tuned in the key of G, it's transposed, sharpening the F for you automatically, so you have one less sharp to worry about. You can play any song in the key of G with the same fingering you would use for the key of C. It also means that you only finger one sharp to play in the key of D or finger 3 flats instead of 2 to play in the key of Bb.

Purchase strategy. The next step in the strategy I'm suggesting is to buy ocarinas in keys distributed around that circle. The value of this approach seems to have been largely overlooked in most ocarina conversation. The most basic combination, taking advantage of keys available without a custom request, would probably be G, Bb, & B, all of which Pacchioni and possibly a very few others may offer standard. See my avatar for a more complete distribution example which when complete (soon) will only require me to play one sharp or flat and give me a variety of sounds. You can zoom in on your browser with control + scroll to read it more clearly. Other reasonable but more expensive custom strategies would be F,D,B,Ab or C,A,Gb,Eb or F,G,A,Ab. It is harder for a maker to tune to a key not adjacent in pitch to one of their standard ocarina keys, but some may do so by request, notably Pachhioni and Imperial City Ocarina (Bull). This purchasing strategy accomplishes two vital things: (1) It drastically reduces the number sharps and flats that must be fingered in a potentially challenging song by performing the transposition for you automatically. This is applicable whether or not you follow my other recommendations. (2) It makes it drastically easier for you to determine which key the song you're hearing is really in and to pick out the notes by ear (if you don't have perfect pitch). A third benefit (often necessary for single chambers) is that it gives you options for fitting your instrument to the range of the song.

Playing by ear. Pick an ocarina in a "key" near the top of the Circle of 5ths and try to play along with the melody of a slow, easy passage of your song. If the fourth note (F for the key of C) is sharp, the song is probably not in a flat key; and if the 7th note (B for C) is flat, it's probably not in a sharp key. (Incidentally, if you choose ocarinas carefully these may be almost the only sharps and flats you have to deal with, and conveniently these ones always show up at the same fingering position.) If there are a few more sharps or flats, consider switching to your instrument in B (or possibly Ab if you have one). Occasionally it's useful to select a different key nearby on the circle to better fit the range of the song. When you find the right ocarina that can play along without many sharps or flats, try to play the same note on your ocarina as the melody. Even a newbie can usually tell when you've got the right one, and anyone can learn with practice. It helps to start with slow simple songs and to leave out the fast ornamentations at first. This is where having an ocarina in a close key helps immensely. The octave doesn't matter. If you have trouble finding the melody, you might be trying several notes too high or too low, or have the wrong key signature. Practice is the price you pay, but it's lots more fun on your favorite songs. Beware, songs occasionally change their key signature part-way through. If you read and have access to sheet music (or even 1 page samples) in the right key it can make this process easier, but I find it's usually just as fast to pick it out by ear unless the passage is really tricky. You don't really have to worry about distinguishing a major key from its relative minor, as they have the same patterns of sharps and flats. I expect you'll find that you play far more passionately by ear, but if you rely solely on it your understanding of theory may not fully develop, especially with regard to reading music.

A transposing or non-transposing (concert pitch) approach? Now this is important: If you have ocarinas in different keys, my strong advice is DON'T think in concert pitch, learning different fingerings for the same absolute notes! Instead let each instrument do the hard work of transposing for you while you play every one the same as if it were in the key of C. The concert pitch approach will really confuse your fingers and require far more effort in the long run, especially if you're not just playing certain types of folk music in easy keys near the top of the circle. As you go further down more notes requires special treatment until eventually they all do. All this trouble can be entirely averted by the transposing instrument strategy I'm describing. If you end up using sheet music too, this time could arguably be spent more efficiently learning to transpose it in your head, as Kresimir wisely opined. This becomes increasingly true the more ocarinas you have, as the concert pitch requires learning different fingerings for every ocarina whereas transposition is unaffected. It gets confusing fast, which I believe is why Dr. Pacchioni assured me that the ocarina is best considered to be a transposing instrument. Yes there are at least two options, but if you care to dig through through this thread you'll see why I believe one has a distinct advantage. I don't put forth these opinions to be argumentative, but because I really want to try to steer people in a more optimal direction. Here's a summary of the two approaches:

Treating the ocarina as a Transposing instrument (recommended):
-Learn the same fingering only once for all keys, even the most difficult ones.
-Only requires extra effort if reading sheet music in the wrong key.
-You never have to perform transposition yourself if playing by ear or numeric notation or midi or an arranged composition.
-Transpose the sheet music in your head only if necessary. I'll eventually post shortcuts for this, but it's quite manageable.
-If you do learn to transpose in your head, you'll be able to play any song in any key regardless of the key its written in.
-This is the standard approach for transposing instruments taught in music schools and the widespread Western tradition.
-These are instruments provided to the same musician in multiple keys like the ocarina in order to make it easier to move among them.

Concert pitch (Non-Transposing):
-Learn different fingerings for every ocarina.
-May be reasonable for a very small number of ocarinas in easy keys (e.g. certain folk music).
-Becomes more difficult for keys with more sharps and flats because there are no shortcuts available to eliminate the need to think about each one.
-Requires more work and potential for confusion with more ocarinas.
-You may choose to think in the key of the song rather than the key of the ocarina.
-The work of transposition is always done up front so you can read any concert pitch sheet music.
-May feel more natural to those with perfect pitch.
-This is the standard approach for Western non-transposing instruments and in certain folk traditions.
-Musicians playing these instruments less frequently play similar instruments in other keys if such are available.

See replies below and outside research for more, studying out this non-superficial and sometimes divisive topic before deciding for yourself. The deeper you get into it the more sense it makes, and the more you practice transposing, the more natural it becomes. If you choose the concert pitch approach see Jack's tips in his replies on the original ton thread. Incidentally, midi files are valuable if you can find them because they can transpose sheet music keys electronically to match your ocarina, making the entire point moot. If this doesn't make sense to you, read these links:
google search "circle of fifths" , "transposition" , "transposing instrument"

Music Notation. Just to be clear, this longer section is an optional supplement to playing by ear, but don't miss how helpful it can be. Once you're a bit familiar with a song, you might want to work out the tricky sections (with and without the backtrack) and write them down for later reference. If you don't have the sheet music, you might also want to write down the whole song, or at least key musical phrases that will remind you how to get started whether or not you have the mp3 with you. So how should you write down the notes of a song? The traditional answer is sheet music. It's perfectly defined, ubiquitous, and not that hard to learn, but must be transposed either by hand or in your head or using a midi program such as Garage Band or Finale NotePad. It's also incredibly slow and difficult to write and probably not worth your time unless you're a composer. Tabs showing the fingering for each note on a particular ocarina are somewhat useful but laborious, inefficient, and usually incomplete. Jianpu is exponentially quicker and simpler to write and includes timing indicators. The numbers allow you to apply them to an ocarina in any key and transpose directly and effortlessly to another. Jack says that ABC is similar and exceptionally useful software is available for converting to sheet music, but I expect the letters would make transposition more confusing than numbers which don't have any concert pitch reference.

My own preference is to make music notation as quick and compact as possible so that I can easily notate key passages of songs and include dozens of them on one page. So I've adapted a lazy/efficient alternative to Jianpu that I'll call Shorthand which only gives me the note and timing cues I really need. It mostly uses the number pad. In the past four months I've used it to put down the key parts of about 300 songs on about four double-columned pages in my very limited spare time. That said, I still recommend learning to read sheet music, but feel free to use or adapt any system of notation that works for you.

Here's an example of my quick and compact shorthand notation. See the attached image for more examples from the public domain.

Intermezzo from Cavelleria Rusticana C

Notes. As you'd expect, 1 = C, 2 = D, 3 = E and so forth if playing an ocarina in the key of C, but 1 also applies the base or tonic note F for an ocarina in F, etc. Underlining a number indicates it is played in a relatively higher octave, and surrounding notes with {123} or following with an * indicates a lower octave. Using 890 interchangeably with 123 is a Pacchioni-like overlap that saves time by eliminating formatting and can remind me which chamber to play the notes on. b = flat, # = sharp. Trills or rolls (slow or fast) are indicated with ~ and a note that is repeated several times can be indicated with ^ or +. The top note of chords can be formatted in bold.

Timing and organization hints. Italicized notes are played faster than usual, without an absolute timing connotation. Normal notes may not have precisely the same timing, but I can usually remember that by ear, so I provide no indicators. A single period "." helps separate phrases of music and indicates that notes should be held longer than usual. Two periods .. indicate an extra long note or rest. 3 periods ... are used to separate sections of a song that may be repeated at some point. Such a section may have (123) just before ... indicating that this is an alternate version of that section. I also use ... when I don't need to write down the rest of a section in detail because I've had sufficient reminder and can figure the rest out easily. You don't have to use it that way, but these innovations save me immense amounts of time. Try it out and you'll see what I mean, and the rest of the system will also make much more sense to you. If you like, you could easily include the timing indicators from Jianpu or your own design to fully define timing, but you'll find it tricky and perhaps not worth the effort in certain passages.

What should you know about me? I'm an engineer not a musician, but I play classical piano at a very beginning college level, considerably more amateurish recorder for a few years, and ocarina for six months so far. I like the ocarina for its timber and simplicity. When playing only one or two notes at a time I don't have to practice a song for long to play along with my iPod and I'm free to focus on dynamic expression, transposition, timing, etc. I prefer concise, friendly, on-topic posts without long quotations. Let's discuss merits before criticisms, please.

Author:  Krešimir [ 09 Dec 2013, 13:30 ]
Post subject:  Re: Playing by ear in any key

First of all, I would ask, as a personal favour, not to share links to my articles on TON - they are old versions of the articles that I wrote, but I cannot update, edit or remove, since I am banned there. There are some terrible errors in those texts and it is regrettable that many people get to read them as they are. I've done many corrections since and really dislike the fact that I cannot get rid of my posts on TON. The newer versions are available here on Little Geese - I would prefer it greatly if you were to link to them instead (but I expect your link on TON will be removed if you try, they are not as tolerant as we are when it comes to linking to posts on other forums).

I'll try to go over your article. You wrote a lot of things here, I agree with most of it (you make some really good points) but there are also some terrible ideas.

I do not agree with your "purchase strategies", because they seem to be optimized for minimizing the number of sharps and flats and not for maximizing the amount of music you can play. I believe this is a mistake and waste of money. Minimizing the number of sharps and flats is not very important - having ocarinas with different playable range is. I will explain that in more detail, but lets first discuss music notation and the part of your post that bothers me the most.

The most obvious bad idea in this whole article is the suggestion of using numerical shorthand notation. You characterize sheet music as "incredibly slow and difficult to write and probably not worth your time unless you're a composer" (which is definitely not the case) and then offer an alternative notation, diatonic notation style. I would advise against doing that. There is a reason why standard notation is the way it is. It was not designed by a certain person for a certain goal, but it evolved over the last four or five centuries into a very efficient system of notating music. Today, it is so widely used, it is almost impossible to be a musician and not know how to read it and the first thing in any serious music education is to learn how to read it. For reading sheet music, you don't need to play instrument - it is not terribly difficult to learn how to imagine the music by looking at the sheets - this skill is called solfeggio. In this sense, written music transcends any instrument and that is why it is possible to read the same sheet music regardless of the instrument you play (and why it is so easy to find sheet music to almost any piece you want to play).

The only half-valid reason why anyone would even think of doing it is that standard notation seems difficult to write quickly. However, if you only watched pre-school children write their names on a piece of paper, you would probably also conclude that writing letters is incredibly slow and not worth your time. Same thing is with music. While you are learning it and still don't have a well developed music handwriting, it is painfully slow. Drawing the notes on the paper, to look like printed sheet music, will be very slow. I've seen people first draw little ovals for note heads and then fill them with black, like in a colouring book, spending up to ten seconds per note head. That is obviously inefficient and slow. When it comes to quickly notating some music, just do what Beethoven did:


It seems quite messy and difficult to read, but if you look carefully, you will see that everything is precise and unambiguous. Obviously, Beethoven didn't intend this for other people to read. It was done very quickly, almost as quickly as writing numbers, except it carries a lot more information than any shorthand. Everyone can do that, you just need to figure out what are the most efficient strokes of pen and develop your own music handwriting. I never liked it very much when teachers would say things like "if it was good enough for Beethoven, it's good enough for you", as it is an obvious appeal to authority, but they would have a good point.

Personally, I prefer Bach's style of music handwriting (look up Bach's manuscripts on Google). It looks nice and is very good for quick notation. It is done like this: start in the centre of the note head and make a little black spot by wriggling the pen. Then, without lifting the pen, make the note stem by pulling it out from the note head, in either an upwards or downwards stroke (depending on the stem direction). If the note has a flag, do it also without lifting the pen.

Practice writing music until you can do it more quickly than it takes to figure out the notes in your mind (two notes per second is a decent speed). It's not difficult at all. Don't expect it to look pretty, but insist on precision so you can read it afterwards. For repeating patterns of notes, use standard abbreviations.

There are, however, stronger reasons against using numerical notation, especially for beginners. It is a distraction that creates a comfort zone and makes it difficult to learn standard notation (which is a necessary skill, unlike number notation, which is not). Music beginners usually do not pay a lot of attention to rhythm, but spend more time on pitch. Unfortunately, rhythm is a more difficult concept that pitch and if ignored, it will only get more difficult. Playing rhythm "by ear" ("from feeling"), without counting, is very sloppy and works only for the simplest of music. Any form of alternative music notation that doesn't focus on rhythm is not only useless, but detrimental.

Let's move on to sharps and flats.

Circle of Fifths wrote:
The next step in the strategy I'm suggesting is to buy ocarinas in keys distributed around that circle.

I'm sorry that my article (which you referred to) wasn't persuasive enough for you to abandon the expression "ocarina in key". I agree that is important to have several differently tuned ocarinas, but as I mentioned, I believe your reasoning for it is flawed. One of the biggest problems with ocarinas, that prevents us from transposing the melody to any key we want, is the limited range of the instrument. For example, if you play in G major on an ocarina in C (alto) and the melody requires the high tonic, you're out of luck, your instrument only goes up to high F and high G is unplayable. You need to transpose that melody to F major in order to be able to play it. But then the accompaniment needs to be transposed, which is not always possible (other musicians are, for example, uncomfortable playing in another key, or have diatonic instruments tuned in specific keys, or whatever). Therefore, it is useful to have an ocarina in D, so that when you play the melody in F major, in concert pitch it will be in G major. It is the highest and lowest playable note of the ocarina that determine the range. For the same reason, it is useful to have an ocarina in B flat. The most useful ocarinas are in C and G and then in B flat and F. Next, in D, A, and E flat. Ocarinas in A flat, E natural, B natural, F sharp and C sharp are less useful, because their range is so close to the ranges of already mentioned ocarinas, so I wouldn't put them high on the list of things to purchase.

For multi-chambered ocarinas, which have much larger range, this is not such a big problem. It is quite sufficient to have only one quadruple alto C by Pacchioni to play almost all of the soloist ocarina music and have sufficient flexibility with transposing.

The main reason to use transposing instruments is to have flexible range. The piano is not a transposing instrument, because its range is large and there is no need to have a whole family of pianos to cover all the range of music. Ocarina, on the other hand, has very small range and therefore it is necessary to have multiple ocarinas to cover a large range.

Using transposing instruments to avoid keys with many sharps or flats is silly and applicable only to the simplest of melodies - because even pieces of very moderate complexity may contain many altered notes and modulate into many different keys. The biggest problem with sharps and flats is reading music, not so much fingering positions on the instrument. And practising scales and broken chords solves that problem (and saves you money you would spend on an ocarina in B natural or G flat). Any scale with up to four sharps or flats should be easily playable on an ocarina, so the following scales should be practised until fingering positions can completely be pushed into the subconscious part of mind, in this order: C major, a minor, F major, d minor, G major, e minor, B flat major, g minor, D major, b minor, E flat major, c minor, A major, f sharp minor, A flat major, f minor and eventually E major and c sharp minor. All of these scales are playable on an ocarina and are not very difficult. Rarely will one encounter music in keys other than these, and if one is fluent with these keys, one or two more additional sharps or flats will not be a big problem. Usually, however, the difficulty of music will not depend so much on the key, but more on the complexity of melody.

Anyone who has played the piano knows that pieces in, for example, c sharp minor are not necessarily more difficult than pieces in a minor. Often, it is quite the contrary (music of Chopin comes to my mind). The only problem is reading music in keys such as c sharp minor, because that is something one does a bit less often (and notes like B sharp can be confusing, because one tends to think of B sharp as C natural). This is a psychological barrier, not a practical one and can be overcome with intelligent practice.

Circle of Fifths wrote:
If the fourth note (F for the key of C) is sharp, the song is probably not in a flat key; and if the 7th note (B for C) is flat, it's probably not in a sharp key.

Yes, that's a very good way to do it. I usually do it a bit differently - I listen for a dominant chord resolving into a tonic chord (the most easily identifiable harmonic progression, which is the base of all tonal music) and then the root of the tonic chord is the tonic. Another very easy way to identify the key signature of almost any piece is to simply listen to its last note. Almost all of tonal music ends with the tonic chord, usually in its root position.

Author:  Circle of Fifths [ 09 Dec 2013, 21:00 ]
Post subject:  Re: Playing by ear in any key

Thanks for the thorough feedback, Kresimir. I can remove the links on TON, or replace them with newer more complete articles if you like. Which articles would be preferable to link?

I also support learning sheet music with its broader applicability and precision. Although it's more of a supplementary topic, my notation is optimized for speed and compact usage of space. It serves those purposes quite well, much more efficiently than sheet music could even if one becomes very quick at it. I'm only trying to jot down a few brief reminders and move on, not take the time to perfectly define the song. Perhaps I should edit to clarify that sheet music is more useful outside of this specialized case. Though it's more work up front, it is indeed good for musical development.

To determine key, I also listen for the last note. I will start watching out for the resolution into a tonic chord.

I should indeed make it clear that I use only multichamber ocarinas to eliminate the need to match the range of the ocarina to the key of the song, and yes it is expensive a caveat I should give more attention. For people with only 10-12 holes, range would be more of a problem.

As for playing or reading sharps and flats, it's no problem on the piano once one becomes familiar with them. However, let's consider the necessary combinations on a multichamber ocarina. F# is usually easy, but C# on either chamber and Bb on the first require using both hands, leaving the other hand less prepared for a chamber switch, or worse a "chord". There is less complication on a 10-12 hole. Yet a sharp or flat usually requires an extra tonehole out of the semi-linear order, whether it be a slower sub hole, a Pacchioni thumb hole, or merely a lower tonehole on the same hand. It can certainly be managed, but avoiding it is a simplification that's appreciated on rapid or complex passages. If the key signature changes, I do find myself fingering sharps or flats more often than switching to another ocarina. In practice I find that it is considerably easier to pick out a melody by ear when the number of sharps or flats is minimized.

Author:  Krešimir [ 09 Dec 2013, 21:47 ]
Post subject:  Re: Playing by ear in any key

Circle of Fifths wrote:
Thanks for the thorough feedback, Kresimir. I can remove the links on TON, or replace them with newer more complete articles if you like. Which articles would be preferable to link?
You are perfectly free (and encouraged) link to anything that I wrote on this forum - I have control over all of my content here so I try to keep everything up to date, expand it with new content and if somebody finds a mistake or points out that I wrote something wrong, I can easily correct it.

Author:  Jack Campin [ 10 Dec 2013, 00:53 ]
Post subject:  Re: Playing by ear in any key

Here is where picking the right ocarina gets a bit less obvious. It's a typical klezmer tune, in the freygish scale (phrygian but with a major third and the sixth at the bottom of the range sharpened) except for one weird note. (In Turkish music I'd say it was momentarily modulating to saba, but klezmer theory doesn't recognize that).

Sherele in ABC
 DC=B,C D2E2 |D8                    |
^FEDE   F2G2 |A8                    |
 ABc2   c2c2 |cB/c/ BA/B/  AG/A/ G^F|
^FGA2   A2A2 |AG/A/ G^F/G/ FE/F/ ED |
 C=B,CD DG^FE|D8                   :|
G4  B4 |_d8|=dccB BAAG|A8 |
A3B c3d| e8| eddc cBBA|G8:|
AG^F2 FED2|DG^FG .A2.d2|
AG^F2 FED2|C2 G2  D4  :|

Sherele in staff notation
DC=B,C D2E2 | D8 |\
^FEDE F2G2 | A8 |
ABc2 c2c2 | cB/c/ BA/B/ AG/A/ G^F|\
^FGA2 A2A2 |
AG/A/ G^F/G/ FE/F/ ED |\
C=B,CD DG^FE| D8:|
G4 B4 |_d8 |\
=dccB BAAG | A8 |
A3B c3d | e8 |\
eddc cBBA | G8:|
AG^F2 FED2 | DG ^FG .A2 .d2 |\
AG^F2 FED2 | C2 G2 D4:|
Jack Campin,

It has a few downward runs F# - Eb - D. These are extremely common in the freygish mode, as in the related Turkish/Arabic hijaz mode and slightly different Turkish/Greek/Arabic hijazkar (North Indian bhairavi) mode. The tune fits fine on a C ocarina with a subhole, but those runs are not too fluid: okay if you can do an Eb with the fingering T1234 T-234 as many ocarinas allow, but if your Eb is only doable with T1234 T12-4, the sequence goes:

T1234 T--3-
T1234 T12-4
T1234 T123-

first lifting your right ring finger while putting your other left hand fingers down, then lifting your little finger as you put your ring finger down again. A bit awkward.

Now try it on a Bb ocarina.

T12-4 T1---
T1234 T1---
T1234 T12--

You just put your left ring finger down, then your right middle finger. No finger lifting required.

This is a very common scale in klezmer (usually in D as here), and so is that melodic pattern. The difference in fluidity is enough to make me prefer a Bb ocarina for this kind of tune, if the range fits. (Freygish tunes never go below B natural, but the top end is variable).

Author:  Krešimir [ 10 Dec 2013, 06:25 ]
Post subject:  Re: Playing by ear in any key

Yes, I would play that particular piece on an ocarina in B flat, too. The range also fits much better on a B flat instrument, as there is no need to use the subhole (and not all ocarinas have subholes). I agree that the difference in fingering fluidity alone is so significantly large that it is not worth the effort to do it on an ocarina in C (though, it is certainly manageable, with practice).

From my perspective, however, it is a very atypical example. I am not at all familiar with this type of music. I would even consider sacrificing one ocarina in C or in D to re-tune it to a diatonic D freygish ocarina with easy linear fingering (scordatura) - maybe not for this one tune, but if I had the desire to play a lot of such music (and in the case where the range of an ocarina in B flat would not be enough, for example).

Author:  Jack Campin [ 10 Dec 2013, 22:16 ]
Post subject:  Re: Playing by ear in any key

Klezmer tunes are usually in three sections, with a change of mode for one of them. So it might not be that helpful to have an ocarina retuned to D freygish - you could be required to switch to a misheberach, major or minor key for the contrasting bit, though the range would probably be the same.

Concert pitch (Non-Transposing): [...]
-Musicians playing these instruments less frequently play similar instruments in other keys if such are available.

Patronizing tosh.

ALL recorder players do that and always have done. Guitarists who use variant tunings effectively do the same thing - nobody produces scordatura tab for the way Martin Carthy plays.

Wind instruments I can read at pitch for:

- Albert-system clarinets in G and C
- Boehm-system clarinet in B flat
- Boehm and 8-key C flutes and Boehm alto flute
- C melody saxophone
- recorders in C, F, G, D and A, or C and F in bass clef
- whistles in D, G and A
- bagpipes in A
- ocarinas in C, F, G and B flat.

Ones I currently only play by ear but could learn to read at pitch for in a few hours if I had to: salamuri in C dorian, E flat clarinet, recorder in B natural, ocarina in E. Once you've learned a couple of different pitch systems, as any recorder player will have done, adding more is easy. And generating FUD about it is purely destructive.

Author:  Jack Campin [ 11 Dec 2013, 12:30 ]
Post subject:  Re: Playing by ear in any key

Another point about the instrument choice for that klezmer tune. I could only do that experiment of playing the tune on a B flat ocarina instead of a C one because I could play a B flat one at pitch - if I'd been religiously avoiding doing that as CircleOfFifths is suggesting, I'd have had to write out transpositions for every key that looked possible. Which probably wouldn't have happened.

But I didn't actually do it on a B flat ocarina at first. I used a C one and played the tune as if I was reading it on a B flat one. The result was that the tune came out in E freygish. I was using both at-pitch and transposition thinking simultaneously. So, if I come across someone who wants to play that in E, I can cope with it.

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