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  1. #1

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    In my understanding rubato means freedom ONLY in the tempo of the music. However it seems to me that when some jazz guitarists play rubato, they also freely add beats to bars. In other words they change the time signature of each bar. Some bars end up being played in 7/4 time, some 5/4 time, some 3/4 time etc.
    Should rubato really include adding and dropping beats to bars? Is that what's commonly understood? Or is it just a display of having bad time.

    PS. Perhaps you can interpret adding beats as playing subdivisions in 4/4 time with fractional tempo increases (playing 4/4 time 1.25 times faster) but that's just too crazy so I'm not going there.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 10-28-2019 at 02:41 PM.

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  3. #2

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    Rubato is a disease of chord melody. More often than not people are trying to hide their lack of groove chops, thinking they sound 'pretty'. It's all BS. Get to the point or don't waste my time. I usually quit listening a tune after a few seconds of rubato. Of course there are some good exceptions. But in general, nah, spare me.

  4. #3

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    rubato should be a pushing and pulling of the tempo so that it equals out to the same amount of time.

    Edit: that said, Barry Harris said rubato for singers should be like a game of "lose/throw off the piano player."
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  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    rubato should be a pushing and pulling of the tempo so that it equals out to the same amount of time.

    Edit: that said, Barry Harris said rubato for singers should be like a game of "lose/throw off the piano player."
    With singers, yes, it's a different story, but true. Here we talking chord melody though.

  6. #5

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    Hep, do you do any chord melody stuff? I love your playing that I've heard, but haven't heard any solo guitar. Just interested
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  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    In my understanding rubato means freedom ONLY in the tempo of the music. However it seems to me that when some jazz guitarists play rubato, they also freely add beats to bars. In other words they change the time signature of each bar. Some bars end up being played in 7/4 time, some 5/4 time, some 3/4 time etc.
    Should rubato really include adding and dropping beats to bars? Is that what's commonly understood? Or is it just a display of having bad time.

    PS. Perhaps you can interpret adding beats as playing subdivisions in 4/4 time with fractional tempo increases (playing 4/4 time 1.25 times faster) but that's just too crazy so I'm not going there.
    Rubato shouldn't feel like you've dropped or added beats. It should feel like you're pulling at the tempo as a means of expression, the way a singer might. If you're literally adding or dropping beats, that's not rubato. It's what is known as mistachhato, though some prefer the term fucchtupato.

    John
    Last edited by John A.; 10-28-2019 at 07:24 PM.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    Rubato is a disease of chord melody. More often than not people are trying to hide their lack of groove chops, thinking they sound 'pretty'. It's all BS. Get to the point or don't waste my time. I usually quit listening a tune after a few seconds of rubato. Of course there are some good exceptions. But in general, nah, spare me.
    Rubato done right doesn't bother me. What pretty much always does bother me is the way many guitarists play melody notes late (compared to the chord or baseline they're playing) because they can't get to them in time (and I'm as guilty as anyone else when it comes to that). Some people try to excuse that as rubato, but it ain't.

    John
    Last edited by John A.; 10-28-2019 at 07:24 PM.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    Rubato is a disease of chord melody. More often than not people are trying to hide their lack of groove chops, thinking they sound 'pretty'. It's all BS. Get to the point or don't waste my time. I usually quit listening a tune after a few seconds of rubato. Of course there are some good exceptions. But in general, nah, spare me.
    Hallelujah !

    if it don't have a pulse , it's dead ....

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    Rubato is a disease of chord melody. More often than not people are trying to hide their lack of groove chops, thinking they sound 'pretty'. It's all BS. Get to the point or don't waste my time. I usually quit listening a tune after a few seconds of rubato. Of course there are some good exceptions. But in general, nah, spare me.
    Gawd, I wish I could LIKE this 100 times. I have no problem when a real, proven pro plays rubato, but most people rely on it and when they do it, it still doesn't sound right.

    I have said it 1000 times and I will say it again, you have to stand before you walk. Get a metronome to help you internalize the beat. Do the Lage Lund thing where you turn the tempo down so you only hear a beat every measure or two... or four. Then, after a year or two of that, learn how to make a groove when you play, even when you are playing ballads.

    Cool harmony does not make you sound like a good jazz guitarist, your groove (swing or whatever you want to call it) does

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    Hep, do you do any chord melody stuff? I love your playing that I've heard, but haven't heard any solo guitar. Just interested
    I did some videos, but I never happy with any of them lol. I used to post a lot on instagram, 1 min snippets, just for fun. But let me see.... Somewhere between John Scofield and Jonathan Stout is my inspiration.

    Damn, as I type this, I realize I don't have an access to youtube, because my VPN is constantly blocked for the past few days. I live in China now, enough said. When I have a chance I post a video.

  12. #11

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    Didn’t you do Stompin’ at the Savoy for the practical standards thread a few months ago? I enjoyed that.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    Didn’t you do Stompin’ at the Savoy for the practical standards thread a few months ago? I enjoyed that.
    I think so, but I'm not sure! Thanks though, I hope it was mine.

  14. #13

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    This is the one I was thinking of.


  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    This is the one I was thinking of.

    Pay close attention to how your right hand keeps time with a steady rhythm.

  16. #15

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    Of course this video should not be in this thread as it contains no trace of rubato!

  17. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by John A. View Post
    Rubato shouldn't feel like you've dropped or added beats. It should feel like you're pulling at the tempo as a means of expression, the way a singer might. If you're literally adding or dropping beats, that's not rubato. It's what is known as mistachhato, though some prefer the term fucchtupato.

    John
    Compared to piano players, I think it easier for guitar players to add/drop beats when playing chord melody. When alternating chord punches and solo lines, there is less room for melodic ideas to develop which leads to playing over barlines. That's fine when done because that's how one hears the line. But when it happens due to "congestion", it demands more concentration to not add/drop beats.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 10-30-2019 at 06:00 PM.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    This is the one I was thinking of.

    Yea thanks, it's a good one in terms of keeping the steady beat, I think that's the best thing I do. Not liking the improv part very much. Of course, no rubato from me, what am I doing here

  19. #18

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    Ok, I'll post this on my own. Maybe a little a bit of rubato in the beginning? Thats the most I can do!


  20. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    In my understanding rubato means freedom ONLY in the tempo of the music. However it seems to me that when some jazz guitarists play rubato, they also freely add beats to bars. In other words they change the time signature of each bar. Some bars end up being played in 7/4 time, some 5/4 time, some 3/4 time etc.
    Should rubato really include adding and dropping beats to bars? Is that what's commonly understood? Or is it just a display of having bad time.

    PS. Perhaps you can interpret adding beats as playing subdivisions in 4/4 time with fractional tempo increases (playing 4/4 time 1.25 times faster) but that's just too crazy so I'm not going there.
    No, no and no .

    In my mind, there are several things going on.

    First of all, there's real rubato, where you're playing an actual four beats worth of notes, while stretching time one way or another etc.

    Second, there's the RHYTHMIC abstraction of time, by phrasing music on different/smaller/larger subdivisions of the beat "as if" it's the original phrasing, giving the EFFECT of playing ahead/behind, loose, "out of time" etc. A lot of these are very easily heard when rhythmic subdivisions of the beatare more filled out.

    So if a player (or combination of different players) are playing something on nearly every subdivision of the beat or at least more directly REFERENCING the beat, it's more easily heard. But advanced players playing ballads are very often disguising this as much as possible, subtracting information which gives direct reference to underlying rhythmic subdivisions etc.

    ************

    Now, to a separate set of problems in my opinion:

    Guitarists are often largely self taught and don't hear the underlying subdivisions well, especially when there's less rhythmic "information" and the arrangement is more sparse. Even basic classically trained pianists get thousands of hours on complex subdivision exercises by simply playing repertory which is written for two hands. The two hands could be conceived as one entity for simplifying counting and subdivision of the beat, but you also get the aural and kinesthetic reps in playing different polyrhythms and syncopations in different types of rhythmic structures. Same for drummers etc. Honestly, even horn players probably are a little ahead of us in this regard, because they just studied more, at an earlier age, in school.

    Anyway, to my ears , I hear a lot of guitarists who are basically misinterpreting those first two types of rubato as being either "completely out of time" or adding beats etc, having not fully explored really "filling things out" on smaller subdivisions of the beat.

  21. #20

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    Rubato is like abstract art. Just as your attempt at a realistic portrait that sucks isn't "abstract," rubato also needs to be intentional and handled carefully. It ain't "rubato" if your time sucks.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
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  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    Rubato is like abstract art. Just as your attempt at a realistic portrait that sucks isn't "abstract," rubato also needs to be intentional and handled carefully. It ain't "rubato" if your time sucks.
    Eggz-Ackley!

    John

  23. #22

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    Learn to play in time. Add rubato to taste.

    Unaccompanied playing is a real tough one though. Easy to add in or drop a beat. I record myself and listen back as part of my practice. When I hear myself do this, I try to focus on learning the tune, or the line better so I keep the pulse going throughout my playing, but in the heat of the moment, it does happen even to some of the greats.

  24. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Learn to play in time. Add rubato to taste.

    Unaccompanied playing is a real tough one though. Easy to add in or drop a beat. I record myself and listen back as part of my practice. When I hear myself do this, I try to focus on learning the tune, or the line better so I keep the pulse going throughout my playing, but in the heat of the moment, it does happen even to some of the greats.
    I think that's it. I was trying to clarify whether there is some loose definition of rubato where adding beats is OK and intentional.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    Ok, I'll post this on my own. Maybe a little a bit of rubato in the beginning? Thats the most I can do!

    Hey Hep, if you haven't done it yet you should do a trio album with double bass and eclectic percussion, that tele with the bigsby and as much fender reverb as you can handle playing those sorts of tunes. I'd buy it!

  26. #25

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    One exercise I do a lot is play the melody, just the melody, record and listen back or maybe accompany. Listen out for added beats etc. Generally, the better I know a tune, the less mistakes I make with the timing.... Stop press!

    Once that's done, it's easy to add a bit of clothing to the melody, and build up from there.

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Hey Hep, if you haven't done it yet you should do a trio album with double bass and eclectic percussion, that tele with the bigsby and as much fender reverb as you can handle playing those sorts of tunes. I'd buy it!
    Like jazz with a surf sound? Good idea, that's the sound im going for these days. But what is 'eclectic percussion'? Eclectic is not exactly a word from my lexicon

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    Like jazz with a surf sound? Good idea, that's the sound im going for these days. But what is 'eclectic percussion'? Eclectic is not exactly a word from my lexicon
    Rather than a drum kit a selection of cool and random hitty things

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Rather than a drum kit a selection of cool and random hitty things
    I played a percussion solo on a Bacardi bottle with a chopstick the other day, at a party, so I think I understand now.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    I played a percussion solo on a Bacardi bottle with a chopstick the other day, at a party, so I think I understand now.
    That's the sound.

  31. #30

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    I think the OP was talking about two distinct things. One is playing rubato, pulling and pushing a beat, but still recognisably in (for example) 4/4. The other is free-form doodling around the chord changes. By free form I don't mean Ornette or Derek Bailey, just dwelling on a chord or phrase, stretching it beyond the 4/4 time signature, avoiding what some have called the tyranny of the bar line.

    I think this is OK to do in an introduction section, and I'm sure I've heard Joe Pass and others indulge in it.

  32. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    I think the OP was talking about two distinct things. One is playing rubato, pulling and pushing a beat, but still recognisably in (for example) 4/4. The other is free-form doodling around the chord changes. By free form I don't mean Ornette or Derek Bailey, just dwelling on a chord or phrase, stretching it beyond the 4/4 time signature, avoiding what some have called the tyranny of the bar line.

    I think this is OK to do in an introduction section, and I'm sure I've heard Joe Pass and others indulge in it.
    Yeap, that's what I'm talking about. People still refer to it as rubato I think but it isn't. Perhaps it is not a thing in the classical theory, it's just a folksy thing to do.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 10-31-2019 at 07:41 AM.

  33. #32

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    It has a long history in classical music, especially in the 19th century as composers tried to break away from the rigidity and predictability of four to a bar in two and four-bar phrases. Schubert started doing a five-beat phrase followed by a three-beat phrase, but his feet were too embedded in the early classical culture. It took some rebels like Chopin and Liszt to pull things apart further, and then along came Wagner with his three-hour long phrase before resolution. The main form would be referred to as a fantasia, with many using bits of fantasia inside a more closed form, which is closer to what Tal_175 is referring to.

    Doing so inside a jazz culture of four to a bar is as revolutionary and (to some) as disturbing as it was in the 1840s.

  34. #33
    Oh I'm using fantasia in closed forms alright. Just trying to retrofit theoretical justification instead of fixing it as an easy solution.

    PS. Kidding.

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    Compared to piano players, I think it easier for guitar players to add/drop beats when playing chord melody. When alternating chord punches and solo lines, there is less room for melodic ideas to develop which leads to playing over barlines. That's fine when done because that's how one hears the line. But when it happens due to "congestion", it demands more concentration to not add/drop beats.
    Yes, fucchtupato is our hallmark.

    John

  36. #35

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    I thought this was interesting enough to repost. The idea of playing rubato over accompaniment was apparently quite early in early 20th century classical music performance practice.


  37. #36
    I always find these conversations fascinating. Here's something very interesting to me personally:


    The way this is transcribed is pretty close to how I heard this rhythmically when I first listened to this record years ago . Lots of extra beats and mixed meter etc. Now, listening to it years later, I think that Joe conceived of most of this as being in pretty straight 4/4, although somewhat rubato in the intro. Most of the weird things that are coincidentally in 6/4 etc are more like quarter note and eighth note triplets from a players perspective.

    Almost as kind of a separate conversation, there's the aspect of "If the listener can't hear it, does it really matter?". I think Joe left most of us behind to a certain extent when he played some of this without a backing ensemble.

    In contrast, listen to his final live solo performances on video, last few months of his life. He has become a master of contextualizing everything and bringing the listener along at that point. Much easier to hearIt's really a beautiful evolution of his style. I'll have to find a link.

  38. #37


    Okay. Beautiful love is pretty triplet-y. 9:32. Uses the same formula of "true rubato" + "rhythmic abstraction by way of triplets" as the other tune, but it's much easier to hear in my opinion. He gives slightly more context.

  39. #38

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    "The way this is transcribed is pretty close to how I heard this rhythmically when I first listened to this record years ago . Lots of extra beats and mixed meter etc. Now, listening to it years later, I think that Joe conceived of most of this as being in pretty straight 4/4, although somewhat rubato in the intro"

    As someone just getting up to speed on the basics of music notation, I found this particular point interesting. There's a youtube video featuring a transcription of Bill Evans playing "Danny Boy", and the transcription's meter shifts constantly (4/4, 5/4, 7/4, 8/15, back to 4/4..etc. etc.).

    It seems like this might be an artifact of some kind of computer analysis of the soundfile, a "music-to-text" program of some kind. The score, as played back in a notation program using the sampled sounds, sounds reasonably close to what Evans played. But I can't imagine Evans sitting there thinking "okay, and now for a bar of 7/8...and now I think I'll take it into 5/8".

    If you want to transcribe and stick to the logical meter (usually 4/4 or 3/4, let's say), I guess there's an art to learning how to fit and massage all the notes played into the number of bars (32, let's say) in the form. I was working on a transcription of Bill Frisell playing "What the World Needs Now Is Love" as a solo guitar piece, and I found this aspect of it super-challenging. I'm guessing one part of doing it well is the skillful use of symbols for breaths, pauses, and articulations like fermatas.

  40. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by 44lombard View Post
    "[COLOR=#000000]
    If you want to transcribe and stick to the logical meter (usually 4/4 or 3/4, let's say), I guess there's an art to learning how to fit and massage all the notes played into the number of bars (32, let's say) in the form.
    Definitely

  41. #40

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    I think rubato is fine for an intro. It can help change the beat from the previous tunes---a good idea if you're slowing things down and need to lull the crowd into it---and, frankly, gives you another chorus without having to work much. ;o) Then it sounds better when you play the head in time.

    Like anything, it can be overdone. Playing in strict tempo relentlessly can be overdone too.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  42. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    Rubato is a disease of chord melody. More often than not people are trying to hide their lack of groove chops, thinking they sound 'pretty'. It's all BS. Get to the point or don't waste my time. I usually quit listening a tune after a few seconds of rubato. Of course there are some good exceptions. But in general, nah, spare me.
    Man, I could not disagree more. Be careful, if you would, of painting with a broad brush like that.

    For me, rubato requires patience and trust. It's not the rubato player who's not in the groove---it's the nervous world which can't slow down to hang with it.

    Nervous world: take two Chris Anderson solo ballads and call me in the morning...

  43. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by joelf View Post
    Man, I could not disagree more. Be careful, if you would, of painting with a broad brush like that.

    For me, rubato requires patience and trust. It's not the rubato player who's not in the groove---it's the nervous world which can't slow down to hang with it.

    Nervous world: take two Chris Anderson solo ballads and call me in the morning...
    I agree with Hep if I take his point correctly. There's absolutely a good use for rubato on the right tune (ballads, intros). But "chord melody" arrangements often wind up being extremely compromise-centric music unless the player is very good. I don't need to hear the entire head of Out of Nowhere performed in rubato chord melody style for example.

  44. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by drbhrb View Post
    I agree with Hep if I take his point correctly. There's absolutely a good use for rubato on the right tune (ballads, intros). But "chord melody" arrangements often wind up being extremely compromise-centric music unless the player is very good. I don't need to hear the entire head of Out of Nowhere performed in rubato chord melody style for example.
    Sorry, but you seem to have missed my point. Who said anything about arrangements? Not me.

    We're talking about suspending time, not set chord changes. That IS boring---I know b/c the 'money' tunes I play I can play in my sleep, and yawn, think I'll turn in.

    Again I point you toward Chris Anderson...

  45. #44

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    Great conversation and one that is necessary for a player if he/she wants to develop their OWN STYLE. There are three concepts at play here: strict time, rubato, and impressionism. I think, initially, a serious musician must first understand time and its importance. This is the most basic requirement to developing musically since it requires mastery of the instrument and an understanding of its musical structure. As Hep stated, rubato can be used by an inferior player to mask his/her own lack of technique (if they can't play in time) and this is common in beginning players and should be avoided. After mastering technique, rubato is necessary to bring the music alive since it is a mimicking of the human voice with all of its necessary breathing and emphasis required for an interesting performance. So a good musician must play in time and use rubato effectively.
    Now, we enter another world: impressionism. The best guitar artists I've heard had the ability to play impressionistically. The best examples I have of this style are players like Yamandu Costa, Roland Dyens, and, Bireli Lagrene. Although they do not strictly ignore time, their ability to bend and twist it into a magical compote is unique and highly musical but beyond the ken of even most very advanced players. I don't believe this can be taught; it is an innate and special gift to a select few.
    So, must a solo performance be played in strict time: no. Should rubato be used: yes. Is impressionism accessible to all: no.
    Here's Yamandu Costa with Brazilian vocalist Hebe Camargo. Please excuse the language differences and go to 5:10 for a remarkable performance where rubato and impressionism are used muscially and exceptionally. Every time I hear this piece, I am always moved. Good Playing . . .Marinero


    Last edited by Marinero; 11-17-2019 at 11:48 AM. Reason: addition

  46. #45

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    There goes Marinero again, mr growth mindset

    Ah your probably right, but it’s fun to try and work what’s going on and emulate it however imperfectly?

    If I didn’t find that fun I may as well quit this life of crime and do something more sensible, like studying active volcanoes.

  47. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    There goes Marinero again, mr growth mindset

    Ah your probably right, but it’s fun to try and work what’s going on and emulate it however imperfectly?

    If I didn’t find that fun I may as well quit this life of crime and do something more sensible, like studying active volcanoes.

    Hi, C,
    Not that there's anything wrong with volcanoes . . . may I suggest Popocatepetl on the plains of Puebla, Mexico . . . it's ripe for eruption, resplendent with creative possibilities and appropriate for those with a volcanological disposition! Good playing . . . Marinero

  48. #47
    Some people only want to create within whatever boundaries they've set for themselves.
    Some people want to try and create with no boundaries.
    Some people want to do both, depending on the situation/piece of music.

    Count me as a member of group #3.

  49. #48
    Boundaries are good. Without boundaries no music could be classified as baroque or Japanese folk or reggae. And all music or art would be equally good or bad no matter how it's created. Implicit human aesthetic appreciation constraints are one set of boundaries that make art possible. Commonly observed and adhered to constraints of sub styles of an art form that define that style and inspire artists in that period are another.
    Without boundaries there wouldn't be art. Parameters of boundaries can change however.

  50. #49
    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    Boundaries are good. Without boundaries no music could be classified as baroque or Japanese folk or reggae. And all music or art would be equally good or bad no matter how it's created. Implicit human aesthetic appreciation constraints are one set of boundaries that make art possible. Commonly observed and adhered to constraints of sub styles of an art form that define that style and inspire artists in that period are another.
    Without boundaries there wouldn't be art. Parameters of boundaries can change however.
    Fair enough, your point is valid.
    But without the willingness to push the boundaries, or step outside of them, is progress possible?

  51. #50

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Keller View Post
    Fair enough, your point is valid.
    But without the willingness to push the boundaries, or step outside of them, is progress possible?
    Progress within the boundaries is what Jim Hall did, among many others. It's what great tennis players do, as well. Pushing and going outside the boundaries is harder to "sell", and, of course, going outside the lines in many cases is a foul or fault.

    I think the boundaries exist to allow the observer to have an idea of the beginning, middle and end. Even free jazz depends on some kind of kindred concept to succeed with an audience. Imagine, for instance, watching two people playing tennis without net or lines.