Category Archives: Music

Learning to play music and deal with hearing loss: Part Two

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**This is the second part  of Shirley’s story. Read as she explains the strategies and methods she has adopted to compensate for her hearing loss, which have enabled her to continue learning and playing  music.  It’s an inspiring read and a testimony to sheer determination. Read part one here.

By Shirley Allott

I watched others playing harps, read harp books, looked online, and practiced and got used to the sound and vibrations.  I also found a harp teacher who helped me to understand harp technique, playing chords, and rhythm.

I wanted to play music with others but I found sessions difficult as it is difficult for me to recognise and distinguish pitch. There were only occasionally other harps I could watch at the sessions I went to, so I needed to find other strategies. I could read music but I understood very little music theory. I needed to know how chords worked so I read and studied everything I could in books and online and I learnt how to play chords and I learnt which chords are used in each key and how these are played on guitar so I could watch the guitars. I came to recognise changes in vibration and tone within chord changes.

I found out about Community Music Victoria not long after I started playing the harp and this has really been helpful. Through Community Music Victoria, (CMVic) I learnt new ways of learning music and I gained confidence. I met so many people with different skills and experiences.

Rhythm has always been difficult for me.   Before I started going to CMVic events I tried using a metronome for rhythm and I tried an app on my iPad with a flashing light. Both needed concentration and I couldn’t play while trying to hear a tick or watch a flashing light.

Shirley and her harp at Treetops 2015
Shirley and her harp at Treetops 2015

At CMVic events I realised I needed to feel rhythm. Marimbas were so helpful. I didn’t play one, but I realised I could feel rhythm as well as pitch through their vibration. I love having marimbas, drums or a double bass at a music gathering because I can feel the beat so well.

I have found that learning tunes can be a challenge as I learn by eye, and the feel of the tune, but not by ear.  Music notation for me is easiest but it is not always available.

Through going to CMVic events I have learnt there are other ways of writing down a tune – letters or a chord list on a piece of paper or on a white or black board. Sometimes another person writes down an outline of a tune and I copy it.

Technology is also helpful. I can photograph a tune on a board and I can make a film clip of finger movements on a harp with my iPad.  I can later play it back, slow the film down and watch as strings are plucked.  I can also record a tune with an app which will give me an outline of the notation.   Once I know how a tune goes and have played it a few times, I can play it without any notation, but not always as it is usually played.

I continue to watch others and feel vibration and rhythm and if I know what is in the music, I can adjust what I do.

I am also learning to record a tune on my iPhone or iPad and play it back using my hearing loop which delivers the sound directly to my hearing aids. I am still exploring what I can do with this technology. I have a streamer with my new hearing aids but I still need to explore the possibilities with this. I have recently completed therapeutic harp training with international harp therapy campus in the USA. I researched the harp and palliative care after my mother’s death and I found the international harp therapy campus with Christina Tourin. I learnt that as well as having a clear tone, the vibration of the harp is important in therapy.

If you are experiencing hearing loss Deafness Forum of Australia has a useful list of contacts, organisations and resources which may be of use to you.

Host a Singing Gathering – it makes you happy!

By Jane Coker

It was really sunny and verging on warm in May when four community choirs gathered in Victoria’s Mirboo North, South Gippsland to sing together.

Sweet Sassafrass and VoKallista from the Dandenong Ranges visited Acoustic Kitchen and GrandRidge 245 (Mirboo North’s Community Choir), repaying a visit we had made to them, in the Dandenong Ranges last year. Friendships between the groups had previously been established via CMVic singers’ gatherings and had spurred us to get together.

We first met in Kallista last year and it was such immense fun that we just had to do it again!

Each choir leader taught a song to the whole group, the choirs all performed a few songs for each other (the most appreciative and receptive audience you could ever have!) and we also sang lots of short easy rounds and part songs.

The Locals provided a magnificent afternoon tea. The venue had a fabulous view of the Strzelecki Ranges and as the glorious sound of people singing together filled the room, we watched the sun go down over the hills. Afterwards some of the Mirboo North choir members, who have only recently started group singing, sent me these words:

“I can honestly say I have never felt so happy”

“The performances by all the choirs were sooooo good.  I enjoyed every minute and the people were all so friendly.  Let’s do it again soon. “

“a wonderful afternoon, we enjoyed it immensely.”

It’s a really easy type of event to organise because you have a guaranteed audience! Here’s how:

  1. Pick which groups you want to invite,
  2. set a date together,
  3. book a venue,
  4. Confirm numbers attending from each group
  5. Organise volunteers to bring afternoon tea, do the door etc
  6. Charge people a nominal entry fee to cover costs (we included a fee for the choir leaders too)
  7. Have a great sing together!

Why not give it a go?

Jane Coker

Jigarre Jammin’ – a musical phenomenon

by Gwen Potter

JigarreMusicians2 (1)Jigarre Jammin’ Our motto: Don’t die wishing you’d done it! Jigarre Jammin’ is a musical phenomenon! Up to 70 community-based musicians meet at Girgarre every month for up to five hours of playing, singing, sharing knowledge, catching up – and they love every minute of it! Girgarre is a tiny but very important dairying centre of fewer than 200 residents, located midway between Echuca and Shepparton.

Musos of all ages and stages come from everywhere in northern and central Victoria. Some older players have waited for years to learn; others have never stopped and generously share their skills. Everyone joins in with an enthusiasm and regularity that must be unique in country Victoria.

JJ began when a small bunch of players found the annual Girgarre Moosic Musters were not enough – they needed more sessions to keep them going month to month. A winning format was devised back then which is still followed – in fact, it’s been expanded due to demand. We meet on the 4th Saturday at the Girgarre Town Hall in Winter Road. The format goes something like this:

  • 10.30am: A Celtic jam for all the lovers of Irish and Scottish music
  • 11.30am: A jam for all the fans of Australian bush music
  • 12.30pm: BYO lunch in the supper room
  • 1.30pm: Jigarre Jammin’
  • Arrival, tune up and jam for about 35 minutes, with leaders introducing some new songs
  • Welcome and announcements
  • Workshops for beginners or join in another jam
  • Afternoon tea (country-style – it’s huge)
  • Walk-ups (only if you want to perform)
  • Final jam to take us to a 4pm close.

Styles played cover country, folk, blues, bluegrass, traditional Aussie bush numbers, Celtic, golden-oldies pop, gospel and contemporary. Instruments include guitar, ukes (lots), banjo, mandolin, bass, harmonica, and violin.JigarreJamming1 If you don’t want/need a workshop, you can continue jamming or find a corner with your mates and practise a walk-up number. A number of musos have found kindred souls and formed bands of their own from this process.

Jamming our way It’s important to define “jamming” the way we do it – we make it really easy by putting both lyrics and chords up on a screen via data projector. That way everyone can join in, regardless of expertise or familiarity with the song.

Free instrument loans Want to experiment or try before you buy? Use our free instrument bank – guitars, mandos, ukes, even a banjo or two. Thanks to donations from Fender and other supporters, we have lots to offer.

The cost of all this is a mere $2 per person, and a plate, no membership or subscriptions involved.

And there’s more! Musical camp-overs twice a year, held around a Jigarre Jammin’ weekend!  The first camp-over in 2012 was a total success. Tents and caravans on the reserve next to Girgarre Town Hall, music Friday to Sunday, happy hours, communal meals if you wanted and everyone getting to know each other better as we played on into the night. The May 2015 campover featured a concert with a lineup of bands that are connected to Jigarre Jammin’ in some way and was a great success.

Save the date! Soon planning will begin for the 10th anniversary of the Girgarre Moosic Muster in early January 2016 – check out our website We’ve emphasised playing music in this article but the Muster contains heaps of workshops and opportunities for non-playing singers. JigarreJammin4

Some secrets of our success: Our organising team, led by real community-action dynamos, Jan Smith of Girgarre and Di Burgmann of Shepparton, have long histories of involvement with our communities and helping to bring opportunities to people. We are devoted to acoustic music and devoted especially to encouraging beginners. We often see that musos find themselves the only one of “their kind” in a small community and we aim to counter this isolation by bringing them into our music fold.

Contact Irene Labbett: jigarrejammers@bigpond.com to receive the monthly email newsletter, or for more information about Jigarre Jammin.’