One could argue that all violin-playing is "by ear," dealing as we do with our fretless fiddles!
But do you actively play by ear? And how much success do you find with this?
By "actively playing by ear," I mean, are you able to take a tune that you know, and pick it out on the violin? Is this a simple and fluid process, or one that involves a lot of trial and error? And another way of playing by ear is improvising. Do you improvise, and if so, are you able to match your intentions with the sounds that come out of the violin?
Oftentimes, beginning string students start with some "rote" learning, taking a familiar tune (like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star") and learning it by ear. Of course, even at this early stage, some people need more visual representation (a chart, the finger numbers, the actual music) than others! But often a pre-reading child will simply learn the first half of Suzuki Book 1 entirely by ear, picking out each tune simply from what they have heard.
Then things get more complicated! But the "ear learning" does not have to stop. In fact, you could simply go to your fiddle right now and try playing a familiar melody, or whatever comes to mind. I was impressed, when I interviewed the Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud, that he still starts his daily practice this way.
"Up to this day, I start every day by improvising for about 20 minutes," he said. "One of the reasons I do this is I want the path from thought to output to be instant. I'm personally against this thought of controlling everything, looking at the bow and looking at the fingers; I think the brain works best if you can sort of set it free."
A lovely thought! But it's okay if you are still working on freeing that path, or if you simply are a player who uses the music. How much "playing by ear" do you do? Please participate in the vote, then share your thoughts and experiences about "playing by ear" in the comments below.
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