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February 2021

Happy Almost Spring Everybody🎻

Spring is on its way! We love spring, and every bleak February reminds us of that!

So many composers have given us wonderful spring music! Vivaldi's Spring from The Four Seasons, Mendelssohn's Spring Song, The Rite of Spring by Stravinski (wild), Beethoven's Spring Sonata for violin & piano. Give a listen – all are different and all stunningly beautiful.

At Full Circle Music, we continue to find joy, fun, camaraderie, comfort and just good old "let loose" moments in our Musical Sanctuary. Our three groups are continuing right through the seasons, safe and comfortable in our wonderful spacious studio environment, with excellent health protocols in place.

Thanks to Bob Frost and Alan Eaton for their gifts of skill, musical mastery, and community spirit at our Traditional Music Session classes! Thanks to Becca for her rich and gorgeous cello playing in Trad Session! Welcome to new private students Stephanie, Laura, Roxanne, Josh, Toby and Sara! 

On a personal career note, I have just embarked on a 1-year course for a Professional Diploma in Sound Therapy for Group Relaxation, out of the UK's British Academy of Sound Therapy, the world's premier sound therapy school. I am planning to hang out that shingle next spring :) YAY!

You are all invited to the Sound Therapy Studio (Room 406) in the late fall to enjoy being guinea pigs for my Sound Bath case studies🎶🍃🐦Meanwhile, I have new, soulful and beautiful instruments to learn and create with🎵... and share:)

Be well, be calm, be in joy,
"Be the Music"

Memorizing a Trad Tune by Ear

Whether you can read sheet music or not, knowing how to learn a traditional tune by ear is a great skill to have in your pocket. Here’s my favorite method, which works for all skill levels.

#1. Choose a tune at your skill levelThe shorter and simpler the tune, the better you will get at memorizing. Even if you can play long and fancy tunes with sheet music, start small then slowly work up to longer and more complicated tunes. Pick something in a key you’re familiar with.

#2. Find a s-l-o-w audio or video track. Ask your teacher to record the tune at a s-l-o-w speed appropriate for you. Or choose a YouTube or other video, an mp3, or a CD that’s already slow – or that you can slow down (see following how-to article).

#3. Learn all the notes slowly, in small sections. Listen to the tune, and mentally divide it into small sections. Each day, focus on one small section, playing along super slowly 8-12x. It may take you a week – or a month – of daily practice to learn the tune slowly and memorize it.

If after a week or so of going slowly and carefully you are not getting anywhere at all, either find an easier version of the tune, slow down even further, or simply find a better tune for you – or all three :-) 

#4. Gradually increase the length of your sections. Next, string two sections together and play them through, then three – until you can play through the entire tune slowly and confidently.

#5. Start to play faster. Once you have the notes rock-solid, start increasing your speed by tiny increments. Alternate between using your audio/video track and flying solo, to change things up.

#6. Make a bowing plan. Decide how to bow your tune: will you copy the bowing in the video you’ve been using or make up your own? ​Your consistent bowing plan is a huge part of how you will remember the tune,  as consistent bowing helps build kinesthetic memory (sometimes called “muscle memory.”)

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Memorizing a Tune next month, when we’ll talk about a different approach, using sheet music. ​​

Slow Down Tips and Tricks
You've found the perfect play-along tune on YouTube. It sounds great; it's in the right key – but it's too fast to play along with. What do you do?
Look for the little Settings gear at the bottom of your video, and LEFT click it. See the option labeled PLAYBACK SPEED? Click on it, and you'll get a choice of playing the clip at 75% of normal speed, 50% or even 25%. Through technical magic, slowing the clip down does not change the pitch or otherwise alter it. (Yes, you can go faster than normal here, too -- but you probably don't need to know that today!)
If you RIGHT click on the Settings gear, you get an option to LOOP the video, so you can play your tune over and over without putting down your violin. Just keep that tune going, and each time around you'll get a few extra notes.

But what about CDs and mp3s? If the music you want to play along with is NOT on YouTube, you can download a free app called The Amazing Slow Downer. It performs the same functions: slowing down any music, without changing the pitch.
3 Dudes with Fiddles
Josh, Toby & Mike in a groove in Studio 402.
Aran Boat Song Duet
Last May, Peg graced us with a recording of her playing the Aran Boat Song. It's a lovely, haunting traditional tune – made even more interesting in duet form.

If you'd like to try your hand at playing along, here are links for:
• PDF sheet music for the Aran Boat Song Duet
• mp3 file of Violin 1 –  melody (so you can play the harmony with it)
• mp3 file of Violin 2 –  harmony (so you can play melody with it)
• mp3 file of both parts together 

Enjoy! Thanks to Cynthia for composing the harmony for this tune.
Inspiring Quote
Learning a tune by ear can be compared to hacking through a jungle to make a path. In this case you are making a path in your brain. The first time you make the path it is very hard work but as you keep on coming back the path will get easier and easier and in the end you have this big avenue where you zoom up and down and you are able to remember bigger and more complicated bits of tune.
Sonja O'Brien, traditional Irish music teacher
Pico's in Good Company
Pico's not the only animal who loves to sing along with the violin!
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