I have made some happy discoveries, and the first of them is this: I am not entirely hopeless learning things by ear. I kinda knew this already–I do, after all, I have a history of playing along with Great Big Sea, or Elvis, or now also Le Vent, and just picking out melody lines on whatever flute I’m playing. I’ve also found out in the last couple of sessions that I can also pick out a melody line on a tune if it’s a slow one.
For example, I haven’t looked at the sheet music for either “Foggy Dew” or “Arran Boat Song”, and yet I’ve managed to more or less stumble my way through both of those at recent sessions. They’re slow, and not terribly complex, and so hey, I was actually able to manage them!
Faster jigs and reels though are still beyond me. This may be a matter of just not having a big enough musical vocabulary yet to be able to reproduce what I’m hearing as soon as I hear it–or, rather, a big enough musical vocabulary to do it with my fingers on the flute. I can whistle along almost instantly, or even dum-da-deedle if I’m feeling like trying to be Quebecois-ish about it. But I haven’t made that connection in my brain yet between “I hear this” and “I can reproduce it on my instrument”.
The core skill’s got to be there, though. I can do it with slower tunes. In theory, surely therefore I can learn to do it with faster ones!
In the meantime, Éric Beaudry, in his capacity of “one of the lead singers of La Bottine Souriante”, has now joined Le Vent du Nord in flinging me songs that are demanding I play them NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW. In particular, “Au rang d’aimer” on the new La Bottine album has pretty much parked itself in front of me and looked cute and expectant and unwavering, like Cync’s dog Kosha used to do in Kentucky!
So I went OKAY FINE, since this IS a song of one of the Beaudrys we’re talking about here, and first actually picked out the melody line on my piccolo–see previous commentary re: I can TOTALLY do this “by ear” thing, if it’s a slow enough song, and “Au rang d’aimer” is! This let me figure out though that this thing is totally in D mixolydian. The tonic of the melody line is D, but C is natural rather than sharp.
Thanks to throwing the song through a chord app I have on my iPhone, I was also able to figure out that there’s an awful lot of F in these chords, another marker of it being in D mix. Note: the chord app is pretty nifty; it takes recorded tracks in your iTunes library and flings you what chords it thinks are being played in it. From the songs I’ve flung through it so far, it does a fair to middlin’ job. Which is actually very, very good for my purposes, because it leaves enough wiggle room for me to exercise my ear some and figure out where it screwed up, and what the chords I actually want in there are.
Related to this same song, one of the lines in it that totally makes me swoon is “Je serai toujours ton serviteur”, which means “I will always be your servant”. I appear to have just enough of an ear now that I can tell when I totally screw up the pronunciation of “serviteur”–I keep wanting to say “servateur”! And I can’t tell if this is because I am an Anglophone, or if I’m an Anglophone from Kentucky who is totally drawling her infant French.
Dara says it would be hysterical if, in my efforts to learn to sing Quebecois French lyrics, I wound up sounding Cajun.