Learning by Ear

We all know that music is for listening.

It’s an aural experience that entertains, stimulates and brings great joy and solace to the listener. Whenever I teach fiddle ,I deliberately do it without notation.

It’s not because I couldn’t be bothered to write the notation, on the contrary, it would be easier to give the music pages out and let people work away.

But through experience, on teaching Donegal dance tunes, the outcome of students playing from notation in my experience can result in stagnant, clinical, robotic sounding music.

I feel that the student needs to bring the music inside the head and savour it, let it linger a while and then play it from the heart, rather than listening and then looking outward leaving the inside to go onto the notes on the page to play.It’s too much to process and most budding fiddlers and their music stay on the page and never learn how to play independently without the written sheet music.

I’m not advocating not to read music, it is definitely beneficial to be able to read it.

But I am talking about traditional music that has a depth handed down by the aural method by a lineage of generations .
Every piece of music is full of nuances that can’t be notated and emotions that cannot be explained.

It’s all very personal.

It’s all very organic and natural.

It would be a pity not to savour it properly.

This is traditional music, played by people for dancing, and to encourage the dance the music must have rhythm and flow.
It has to stir the heart and bring joy and elevation.

I’m not saying that this is what you will get here from my fiddle lessons, but it might guide you to that first step towards it and to find that fulfilment.

Most of all, I want you to enjoy these lessons and be able to play your fiddle with confidence.


Donegal fiddler Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh