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Playing by Ear

Instructor:   Barry Luft

Playing by Ear

Instructor:   Barry Luft

Course Description:

Level: 2 – 3  (see Playing Experience Level descriptions at the bottom of the page)

Free at last! Yes, it’s time to lose your dependence on “the page” – that’s not where the music resides, anyway. In other words you are finally getting a divorce from the chord chart in order for your music to take on new life! 

 Hearing chord changes will be the focus of this class for singers who play chord-types of instruments (guitars, banjos, ukuleles, mandolins, and autoharps). Please note that this class is for those who cannot hear the basic I, IV, V, VIm chords and feel “hopeless” in accompanying 3-chord songs without visual help no matter how well they can play. 

 You will learn how songs and tunes are constructed chord-wise, and class exercises will sharpen up your ear with lots of playing and singing in both ensemble and individual contexts. Ability to sing or hum in tune is also a prerequisite. Never again will you panic when someone says, “Hey, bring your guitar and sing “Happy Birthday” to Aunt Edna, or “Let’s jam!”

Barry Luft

Barry LuftBarry Luft's singing has woven rich, colourful threads into the fabric of folk-style music in Alberta for more than fifty years.

Barry presents Canadian, British and American songs and ballads with instrumental accompaniment or a cappella arrangements. He engages his audiences in these musical performances and gives a healthy lift to minds, hearts and voices. Good times leave good memories!

Much of Barry's material is unusual and refreshing. It comes from sources across North America and the British Isles and is seldom known in the everyday music scene. For example, in his repertoire are songs learned first hand at guitar and music camps.

A variety of instruments perks up Barry's performances and his intricate style on the five-string banjo is his trademark. He was taught at age five to play the harmonica by his dad. Other instruments now include guitar, autoharp, English concertina, and Appalachian dulcimer. However, to this day, Barry claims he's not able to read music well enough to hurt his playing.

Playing Experience Levels

These guidelines aim to ensure that all camp participants have an enjoyable experience. They represent what your playing capability should be before you take the class (prerequisites).

Classes are generally designed to pace themselves to match the participants' abilities. Level 1 classes aim to proceed at the pace of the slower students in the class. Level 2 and 3 classes aim to move at the pace of the majority of students in the class. Level 4 classes are designed to push the capabilities of all students and will target the pace of the more capable students  Class descriptions that show a range (Levels 2-3) means the material presented is broadly applicable across that range.

LEVEL 1: You are new or relatively new to your instrument. You may be able to play basic chords or scales slowly. You want to learn the basics of the instrument. You have very little experience playing with others.

LEVEL 2: You are competent with basic chords and/or basic scales. You can keep rhythm and/or play basic melodies and/or sing and play at the same time if the song is familiar. You generally need the chords or melody to be written out in order to play along. You have some experience playing with others.

LEVEL 3: You are reasonably comfortable with most chords, basic major and minor scales, and can play at an appropriate tempo for songs. You are aware of time signatures, song keys, and know that there are chords called 6th, 7th, 11th, etc even if you can’t play them all. You are comfortable maintaining good rhythm and are willing to taking breaks while jamming with others, even if the breaks don't always turn out the way you planned. You may be hoping to take your playing up to the next level of performing with a group or band (beyond jamming) and you want to further improve your technique and speed.

LEVEL 4: You are skilled on your instrument and have a good understanding of musical concepts including scales, arrangements, harmonies and some improvisation. You play lead and back-up with a steady rhythm and can play skillfully with others. You know there is life further up the neck on your instrument and have some capability in that world. You have performing experience, can hold a tune, and can harmonize.