In the past few months, I got really lost in the world
of folk music, cramming as many songs as I can in my head, memorizing as many tunes on the mandolin.
I consult thesession.org as being the official go-to for scores of all tunes. But unfortunately, not everyone sees eye to eye with this.
When playing with others, I discover they tend to play different variations. They don’t use thesession.org scores, nor do they read any score at all! They learn by ‘ear’. An oral tradition of sorts!
This I discovered this fact to be the fundamental difference between folk music, and classical music. Classical music demands every note to be followed. Classical musicians work tirelessly to emulate the original sound while folk players add their own variations to their folk tunes passing it down to future generation players who also make it their own, so on and so forth until the tune doesn’t sound remotely close to how it originally was composed!
Some people find this to be the charm of folk music, but it bothers me… profoundly. It’s maybe because I come from a formal background, where everything has to be official and written on paper with no detail spared.
Apparently my whole approach is wrong. I’m in fact not supposed to sit and practice the tunes. If I want to learn them, I must try to play along with the musicians on the fly, with a skillfully trained ear. It seems like a cool talent to have, but it also seems rather… loose.
You can say you are able to play by ear, but you can’t capture every little detail! Naturally you add your own spin to the song, taking away the spirit of it!
I could try to have an open mind, but I just can’t bring myself to it. I’ll stubbornly play the songs as they were originally meant to be played, and the fellow players will eventually just have to learn how to play by ear with the official scores as set out by thesession.org
… I hope that’s not bad etiquette…