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  1. #126

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    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarStudent
    I am not a professional musician. But I love (“love” is a deliberately chosen word here) reading music. I have a “practice partner” friend I meet with about once a month.

    We sit down with acoustic guitars and sight-read guitar duets. Not for performance but for the exhilaration of learning. And I (and he) find it really fun.

    The challenges of choosing positions, heightened listening, reading rhythms, etc. is exhilirating. There are loads of ways to enjoy the miracle of music. Reading duets with a friend is one way. It is all about the reward of mastering a written piece - usually a piece we’ve never heard.

    I’m not about telling people they should read music but I, and my friend, find this very rewarding. But I see this as a reward of reading music.

    I’m not saying anything new or novel here. Classical guitarists and others know this. And there are great duets free, everywhere. I’m just adding another idea to this conversation.
    You got to hack through it to the point where it becomes fun. Glad I persisted with it.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #127

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Reading music has nothing directly to do with one’s ability to play jazz.

    OTOH it can get you on the bandstand. And you need to be on the bandstand to learn how to play jazz.

    Or you could develop an absolutely amazing ear and only need to hear something once to play it perfectly.

    Most people find it easier to learn to read.
    But how do you develop such an ear ;p? Is it only something you can get if you start really young? Or is there hope for a 24 y/o? Should I slow down records and learn from them? Should I do solfege?

  4. #128

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark
    But how do you develop such an ear ;p? Is it only something you can get if you start really young? Or is there hope for a 24 y/o? Should I slow down records and learn from them? Should I do solfege?
    I think the best way might be a formal ear training course. In person, at a conservatory might be optimal, but also might not be available.

    I derived some benefit from use of Ear Master, which you can buy on-line, but I think an in-person course would have been better.

    Another approach would be lots of transcription -- which is the classic way. And, it also helps build vocabulary.

    I've never done solfege, but I can see the value.

    Probably, better to have started young, but it is absolutely possible to improve when you're older.

  5. #129

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark
    But how do you develop such an ear ;p? Is it only something you can get if you start really young? Or is there hope for a 24 y/o? Should I slow down records and learn from them? Should I do solfege?
    One can certainly improve one’s ear, and there are various ways of doing it.

    But what I am talking about is not recognising pitches by ear alone. It’s actually also musical recall and imagination. So, hearing a lengthy piece of music back accurately after one listening. I think that’s the hard bit.

    You can work on everything though. The human mind is an elastic thing. But most pro musicians use a mix of skills including reading.

  6. #130

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    The non-classical guitar is one of the most abused musical instruments in existence. Its popularity is simply that one can learn to play "songs" within a very short time period. The popular Music(CW/Rock/Blues, etc.) world is full of three-chord guitarists--some of whom have made millions of dollars with minimal "musical" ability/skill. However, a paycheck does not make a musician.
    In regards to what I call "ear musicians," the Jazz world began its ascent with many fine players who could not read music. However, these people were what I call "naturals"--born musicians with a native talent that superseded black dots on a page. One of the best examples is Louis Armstrong. However, as LA became popular, he went back to "school" to learn to read music so he could further his career and expand his opportunities to perform in more varied ensembles.
    So, the delusion persists that one does not need to learn to read music to be a great performer. And, this is still true with one caveat: you need to be one of the millions whose gifts are so abundant and talents so great that your savant-like abilities/talents prevail over everything else. Ergo, the abundance of "ear musicians" who play the electric guitar with mediocrity and little personal success.
    As a young person and multi-instrumentalist, I took lessons for a brief time until I felt(foolishly) that I could play and excel without formal training. And, I did up to a point until I had the opportunity to audition for one of the top R and B groups in the Midwest in their horn section. There were probably about 8-10 sax players in the room and the first thing they wanted you to do was improvise over a simple Blues progression. At the end, I was chosen and they asked me to go to the stage. In front of me on a music stand was their charts for the first show and with my very rudimentary reading skills, I couldn't cut the gig. They chose another player who got the job and left with them in two days on tour.
    After that experience, I began formal study with a classical teacher to enhance my reading skills and studied theory, arranging and improvisation as a non-degree student. It was the last job I ever lost.
    The point being ,for those who don't read or understand music formally, is that although you may still get where you want to go, it will take at least twice the amount of time, or more, to get there and you will always be burdened with your real life inadequacies. Django Reinhart, Errol Garner, Wes Montgomery,and Joe Pass were said not to be able to read music but how many of us have the gifts these musicians possessed who were innovators in Jazz? The odds are against you.
    Finally, the ability to read Music opens up doors/avenues of ideas, concepts and musicality/creativity that not only enrich your playing but help push your technique as higher levels of complexity are reached. And, you'll never be the odd man out in a gig where you're lost when the charts appear. Reading is a finishing school for serious musicians. There is no substitute. Good playing . . . Marinero

  7. #131

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    Well, TBF in jazz if you are an ear musician, you better have that down. Because there's nowhere to hide haha.

  8. #132

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    OTOH, whiel skill and craft always impresses musicians, what touches us in music isn't so easily quantifiable. Some of my favourite music has been made by limited musicians who are in touch with something special... And that's really subjective. One person's naive genius is someone else's talentless imposter.

  9. #133

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    That said most of us are going to fall into the artisan category, if anything.

    But there is an interesting question - does too much theory etc lead to cutting down creative avenues?

    This might make me unpopular here, but I kind of think it can. People can overthink things. A very knowledgable artist has to be careful to maintain an intuitive connection to their art. Nowhere is this truer than in improvisation.

    So while our knowledge of reading etc lands us the pro gig, we may go through life without ever playing anything truly of ourselves.

  10. #134

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    Distaff side: lots of theory can open doors. The more you know, the more you know. Theory also helps with composing and arranging, and understanding the written parts you might be playing in an ensemble situation. Practically speaking, however, a professional free-lance guitarist without reading ability is extraordinarily rare, since pure jazz work is extraordinarily rare. Solfege was presented to me by my very first guitar teacher and set up a foundation for a lifetime of work avoidance as a professional musician. 50 years later, I still enjoy getting calls to sight-read a guitar book behind a singer or in the pit, as long as I don't have to do that for more than a week or two. The key to effective reading is to sound like you're making it up, playing in a natural and musical way, and phrasing with the song and the rest of the band. This will often lead to unexpected pleasures, such as being appointed during rehearsal to step up to the front of the stage to accompany a singer with just the guitar, eschewing the arrangement, because one's playing is natural and musical. Reading well actually involves playing truly from your heart and soul, as any Segovia fan can attest to. It's not unlike reading poetry, in fact.

  11. #135

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    I have a long history of playing with musicians that can only use music notation to solve some musical problems, but are nowhere close to being able to sight read, and are mostly dependent on their ear and maybe chord charts or the Nashville number system. Many of these folks are great musicians and performers, it's just that their genres of music don't really rely on notation as a main tool for preparing or performing.

    We're guitarists and we know that when you move away from jazz, or playing in pits, etc., you start to encounter a different world of music that is so far away from reading notation that it's totally dependant on your ear and your feel, and it's an absolutely valid direction.

    Plenty of guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard just tearing it up by ear in the blues, country/americana, rock, r&b, funk...

    I'm all for reading because it has it's opportunities and advantages for the agenda I pursue, but back in the day I was also playing with guys that were doing Steely Dan tunes by ear, long before I could read, or before the internet.

  12. #136

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    I have a long history of playing with musicians that can only use music notation to solve some musical problems, but are nowhere close to being able to sight read, and are mostly dependent on their ear and maybe chord charts or the Nashville number system. Many of these folks are great musicians and performers, it's just that their genres of music don't really rely on notation as a main tool for preparing or performing.

    We're guitarists and we know that when you move away from jazz, or playing in pits, etc., you start to encounter a different world of music that is so far away from reading notation that it's totally dependant on your ear and your feel, and it's an absolutely valid direction.

    Plenty of guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard just tearing it up by ear in the blues, country/americana, rock, r&b, funk...

    I'm all for reading because it has it's opportunities and advantages for the agenda I pursue, but back in the day I was also playing with guys that were doing Steely Dan tunes by ear, long before I could read, or before the internet.
    I would describe myself as an ear player (who knows a lot of theory and who can read a bit.)

    Any good jazz musician I’ve met has spent hours and hours working stuff out by ear. I see it as not fundamentally different to blues, rock, country etc, esp if you start with older styles.

    Reading is useful for paying the rent and getting you on the bandstand with good players (it’s a ‘buy in’ for a guitar player.) Outside of this, it’s not a core skill for a jazz musician. It just so happens jazz guitarists are usually formally trained by players who operate in the jobbing pro music world.

    Not all of them though.

  13. #137

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    "But there is an interesting question - does too much theory etc lead to cutting down creative avenues?" Christianm77

    Hi, C,
    Yes, an interesting question and "no" as an answer. Theory is similar to a carpenter having the ability to construct a proper roof joist--not the ability to design the house. It is one of the tools we use to enhance our bag of skills/concepts/foundation. The creative avenues are best enhanced by what I term "doodling"--introspective, visceral playtime where we put the music away and play with ideas and improvisations by ear. This, for me, is one of the most important aspects of musical growth and takes a seemingly inordinate amount of time and patience. I usually do this in the evenings after I've finished my musical workload where my mind has time to wander. I always use a notebook to write down my ideas since it is amazing how temporal these meanderings become as you wade through different waters.
    Finally, I do believe some musicians are not capable of creative musical dialogue and I see this largely among many Classical guitarists who have never wandered off the page in their musical training and focus more on technique and speed at the expense of interpretation and rubato. This is, of course, is not true for the best of them: Roland Dyens, Pavel Steidl, Edson Lopes, Ricardo Gallen, Fabio Zanon, Marcin Dylla, to name a few. For the record, I am a hybrid player and play both Classical and Jazz guitar. Good playing . . . Marinero



    Last edited by Marinero; 10-22-2019 at 12:07 PM. Reason: spelling

  14. #138

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    If you think the question can be answered that definitely and simply, you can’t honestly think it’s a very interesting question!

    But I think it can’t be, and it is, and it bothers players who’ve sunk a lot of time into knowledge that this might be the case esp when it is such a common talking point for idiots.

    The ‘forgetting that shit and just playing’ side of the coin is not as simple as it sounds. At least from personal experience.

    I’ve worked with a lot of players over the years. Most have been to music school, but some of the most talented know nothing about theory....

    Anyway back to the OP, I’ve just dug our my old music in the course of moving house and I have had a hugely enjoyable time sight reading classical guitar stuff.... so here’s one reason - it gets fun.

  15. #139

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    "If you think the question can be answered that definitely and simply, you can’t honestly think it’s a very interesting question!" Christianm77

    Hi, C,
    It IS interesting to me since there are still many "players" today that believe competency can come from a completely organic approach devoid of any formal training and that if they seek formal knowledge it will in some way taint their "artistry/creativity." And for every one of these players who achieves excellence in this organic approach, there are millions still scraping mud from their shoes before they can enter the house of competence much as Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the mountain only to have it pushed down by the gods before he reaches the peak for his endless existence. I can only speak from my experience of performing with musicians for the last 50 years and the notion that increased knowledge(Theory) would detract from your creative development is patently absurd. What I have found, however, is that some musicians despite advanced training will never play creatively since it is not in their genes and some players with limited theory will be great players. There is only so much one can do with theory . . . the rest lies with the gods. Good playing . . . of course, creatively . . . Marinero

  16. #140

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero
    "If you think the question can be answered that definitely and simply, you can’t honestly think it’s a very interesting question!" Christianm77

    Hi, C,
    It IS interesting to me since there are still many "players" today that believe competency can come from a completely organic approach devoid of any formal training and that if they seek formal knowledge it will in some way taint their "artistry/creativity."


    I know literally no-one who earns money by playing who thinks this way. 14 year olds perhaps. The occasional amateur (never encountered it in the jazz world at any level.)

    Do not mistake what I said for this position.

    That said the one thing (as I said above) all good musicians have in common is a detailed aural imagination. This is not airy fairy, this is concrete practice. That's why transcription or ear learning in the looser, more traditional sense is the cornerstone of every folk and popular music, including jazz.


    At the weekend workshops National Youth Jazz Orchestra where I am observing, for instance, the improvisation classes are based around ear learning. No charts. Transcribing tunes off the record. Sound first, theory after. It's remarkable how much more swinging everyone sounds compared to equivalent groups on charts. And then they go and read charts in the big band ensembles. Best of both worlds. They aren't necessarily the best young musicians out there, but they are young. Good information, early.

    If the tutors on my music education masters are anything to go by, classical music is waking up to the aural weakness of many of their conservatoire level students and eager to emulate a more ear based way of learning.

    Theory is the categorisation and abstraction of musical objects. I believe this to be inevitable for any musician, it's just that 'ear' players keep their labels private. For instance, I think it likely that Django knew the sound of a dim7 chord and its fingering, but didn't know the 'proper' word for it. AFIAK human beings simply don't learn any other way...

    So all musicians in this sense are theorists and all competent ones play by ear (so do the incompetent ones actually, they play exactly what they hear which is not a lot :-()... but, OTOH, being too 'governed' by theory can hold you back. I find this all the time for myself. Perhaps it is not a problem for you so much...

    And for every one of these players who achieves excellence in this organic approach, there are millions still scraping mud from their shoes before they can enter the house of competence much as Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the mountain only to have it pushed down by the gods before he reaches the peak for his endless existence. I can only speak from my experience of performing with musicians for the last 50 years and the notion that increased knowledge(Theory) would detract from your creative development is patently absurd. What I have found, however, is that some musicians despite advanced training will never play creatively since it is not in their genes and some players with limited theory will be great players. There is only so much one can do with theory . . . the rest lies with the gods. Good playing . . . of course, creatively . . . Marinero


    'Lies with the gods? I have to disagree with this, not because I have terribly good evidence (the opposite in fact), but because I am an educator, and for me to say that would be an unforgivable breach of professional ethics and a massive cop out in my opinion. This is my moral purpose, and why I get money for it. I don't get paid to teach talented students. They teach themselves, and me half of the time....

    (I know someone who was Jacob Colliers teacher. Notice, they don't say they taught Jacob Collier.)

    What I want to do all the time is drill down into what the 'naturals' do that is .. well... natural for them. Sometimes it's very fundamental stuff, you just notice someone is musical by the way they play 4 E's in a row in a beginner guitar book page 1...

    Calling it talent.... Yes. BUT - also no, that's not satisfying to me. What are they doing that is better? Usually things like playing in time, listening to their own sound, imagining what it sounds like before they play it, developing feedback loops between touch and sound.... If you can help a student with this stuff they can become better musicians long run. And sometimes your talented student will hit a bump in difficulty and lose interest...

    Beyond the pleasure of learning, you may be doing music a favour by encouraging the less naturally talented grafter who loves music, is determined to improve and might end up being a much better player in the long run. And then everyone sees the result of their 10,000 hours and raves about how talented they are. (In fact I believe that guitar really almost uniquely rewards that kind of dogged bloody mindedness. Pianists can't in general be arsed with mapping it... Even Collier kind of fakes it haha.)

    The other reason, of course, is being a great player is a target that is always receding... Even I gather, for those we regard as great.
    Last edited by christianm77; 10-23-2019 at 05:15 PM.

  17. #141

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    Theory is collection of common musical patterns in a given style. There are 3 levels of theory in my opinion:

    1- Textbook material. Easiest part of the puzzle. Most applicable stuff can be learned in a short amount of time and it's actually fun to learn them for most musicians.

    2- Internalizing how theory maps on your instrument. This takes years. This is also what distinguishes between a typical Jazz guitarist and guitarist of other styles. The difference between points 1 and 2 is, for example, the knowledge of what the altered notes of a dominant chord are vs ability to instantly access those notes anywhere on the fretboard during improvisation.

    3- Ability to aurally recognize and distinguish between these musical patterns as well as ability to express them or respond to them on your instrument.

    3 is really the point. Can one reach 3 without going through 1 and 2, probably. Certainly in simpler forms of music. 1 and 2 are well tested paths. One would think they would get you there faster than other alternatives. But who knows.

    Ability to perceive nuances is a core skill for an artist. Of course whether those nuances are visual or aural or verbal etc. depends on the art form. Theory helps in developing appreciation for nuances.

  18. #142

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    Theory is collection of common musical patterns in a given style. There are 3 levels of theory in my opinion:

    1- Textbook material. Easiest part of the puzzle. Most applicable stuff can be learned in a short amount of time and it's actually fun to learn them for most musicians.

    2- Internalizing how theory maps on your instrument. This takes years. This is also what distinguishes between a typical Jazz guitarist and guitarist of other styles. The difference between points 1 and 2 is, for example, the knowledge of what the altered notes of a dominant chord are vs ability to instantly access those notes anywhere on the fretboard during improvisation.

    3- Ability to aurally recognize and distinguish between these musical patterns as well as ability to express them or respond to them on your instrument.

    3 is really the point. Can one reach 3 without going through 1 and 2, probably. Certainly in simpler forms of music. 1 and 2 are well tested paths. One would think they would get you there faster than other alternatives. But who knows.

    Ability to perceive nuances is a core skill for an artist. Of course whether those nuances are visual or aural or verbal etc. depends on the art form. Theory helps in developing appreciation for nuances.
    God theory is such a shit word isn’t it?

    Theory is what you do on a University Music degree. It always seems to me jazz musicians are interested in practice. It just so happens you need names for things.

    It’s not patterns exactly. It’s abstracting a concept.

    For instance to take the hackneyed example of CST, a Cmaj7#11 chord doesn’t really sound like D/C, but we recognise them as akin through the abstraction of chord scale relationships.

    Each abstraction/simplification is like a small, limited window through which we observe bits of the crazy chimeric animal that we call music. Through one window we see tusks, through another feathers. So we mistake what it has in common with an ostrich or an elephant for the whole thing...

    The more windows we have, the better perhaps, but the metaphor is going a bit Jimmy Webb circa 1967 and the thought is kind of half formed anyway... hard to talk about these things.

  19. #143

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    I wonder if something was lost when notation went from this:

    Why Learn Standard Notation?-bachinset1-jpg

    to this:

    Why Learn Standard Notation?-s1-jpg

  20. #144

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    The frequent posts considering the value of theory have always triggered some discomfort. I think maybe I have finally put my finger on what bothers me about it.

    It isn't the role of theory. Great players deal with that in different ways. Some could write a book on it off the top of their heads. Some don't relate to it in that way. However you choose to do it, there's a great player who did it some other way.

    What bothers me, and not just about theory, is a certain kind of doctrinaire approach. That is, that some things are "right" and others are "wrong".

    An example: one player I know has complained,to the point of being insulting, when I interpreted a melody. His position is that respecting the composer is paramount and that means playing the melody as written. Two weeks ago, I heard Robert Glasper at the Blue Note play a barely recognizable version of Stella. I don't think it was disrespectful. Anecdotes don't prove anything, but there seems to be something about the human spirit which leads some people to adopt a viewpoint with limited flexibiilty.

    Some players counsel learning copious amounts of theory and question whether anybody can play well without it. Obviously, some can. Comments are made that those players are using theory but in some kind of non-linguistic way. Could be, but even if so, they aren't following the theoreticians' usual advice.

    I've heard lots of students (and even pros) play very polite versions of Real Book tunes -- head, solos, head, outro, with limited variation from that format. But, as Reg recently pointed out, playing jazz is about variation/creativity on the fly. I think jazz only gets good when things are being cooked up by the group. Not just the notes of the solo, but every aspect of the music.

  21. #145

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    It’s not patterns exactly. It’s abstracting a concept.
    Sure, definitely they are abstractions. Abstractions of recurring instances of ideas. That's what I meant when I said pattern. Patterns across the repertoire of an era/style. One off compositional ideas don't make it to the theory books. They are called "creativity". When other composers/song writers/improvisors steal that idea, it becomes theory.

  22. #146

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    "beyond the pleasure of learning, you may be doing music a favour by encouraging the less naturally talented grafter who loves music, is determined to improve and might end up being a much better player in the long run. And then everyone sees the result of their 10,000 hours and raves about how talented they are. (In fact I believe that guitar really almost uniquely rewards that kind of dogged bloody mindedness. Pianists can't in general be arsed with mapping it... Even Collier kind of fakes it haha.)" Christianm77

    Hi, C,
    I agree with much of your previous comments but in the case of the less gifted 10K hour musician, I believe the most you can hope for is a functional craftsman and never an artist. The artist, in my opinion, is a human who has been gifted with exceptional musical instincts that are innate(genetic) and not learned through instruction although they are certainly groomed and enhanced over the years. I have seen this first-hand with many college-trained section players I worked with for years that could always cut the charts but rarely could improvise and usually needed direction with dynamics interpretation in relation to the score. My belief is that many music educators/programs are producing functional robots but very few artists and when you meet these fortunate souls(artists), you recognize them immediately. However, perhaps we shouldn't be too harsh on ourselves since how many 350. pct hitters are playing today in baseball? Good playing . . . Marinero