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  1. #1

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    So, I'm reading through Berliner's wonderful 'thinking in jazz', pages 110 onwards and its lining up a few concepts.

    One thing that comes up is something that I've felt my self intuitively towards is the idea of a more organic aural awareness of music that doesn't enshrine transcription as a noteworthy process but rather the very fabric of my teaching and learning. Berliner mentions a band leader who asked if a student had heard a tune - when she replied she had, he counted it off. The point being - you should be able to play what you hear, and remember what you have heard.

    Obviously, most competent jazz musicians are able to effortlessly repeat phrases back on first hearing, but Berliner talks about jazz teachers 'shadowing' their students - doubling their phrases fractionally behind as they improvise them. I've never had this experience, but I'm sure some other members of the forum might be able to share their own experiences of this. Apparently it's maddening!

    Berliner discusses Barry's workshops from the point of view of this approach. It's long occurred to me that Barry is working the muscles of musical memory as well as mere musical reproduction on instruments. This is hardcore training, aural weightlifting, Berliner calls it 'gruelling' and I have often found myself too exhausted to continue, while Barry's powers of concentration are going strong. With all due respect you can't learn this side of Barry's teaching from YouTube videos. The 'stuff' of his teaching is perhaps less important than how he teaches it.

    I can only say that my powers of recall have improved over time - something that's true of many of Barry's students according to Berliner. Through Zoom, I now have the option of attending Barry's class every week, and I am happy that my skills in this area have improved a lot. I'm still hardly a very good aural musician by the standards of some of my colleagues, but I'm getting better.

    You can see analogous practices in the work of Banacos and Tristano. And Edwin Gordon's Learning Sequences in Music is kind of the theory text for why all this stuff is so important, although for various reasons I doubt these jazz educators were aware of his work.

    About two years ago I moved from learning solos as set pieces to trying to shadow recorded solos (BTW I hadn't read Berliner at this point, it just seemed a good way to echo the process of improvisation.) Learning 1000 songs is another one... And of course transcribing solos (although there are many greats who never learned a whole solo.)

    So this is what I was I meant on the other thread when I said that 'ear training' and 'transcription' are drops in the ocean. Ear learning should be the water we all swim through.

    Take off your water wings. There's only one way to get better.

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  3. #2

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    Classical musicians devote a lot of efford on sight-reading. Jazz musicians perhaps should devote as much efford on sight-playing (oral-playing?).

    I agree with your Barry Harris observation. There is a lot more to Barry Harris workshops than the material. Getting your ass kicked week in week out in the workshops in the beginning and not quite understanding the goings-on as much as more experienced students give a lot of drive to shred the material during the week. The joy one feels when they gradually start getting things is another motivation factor. Also as you said part of the challenge of the workshops is getting your ears up to speed.

    Playing back phrases by ear is one aspect of ear training. But there is also the harmonic ear training. Being able to recognize voicings, extensions by ear. What do you think about that? I'm transcribing the comping tracks of Barry Galbraith's Guitar Comping book. It's helping me in being able to hear the notes in inner voicings, distinguish between crunchy and open intervals inside chords, recognize extensions etc.

    I trying to treat ear training as a mindfulness exercise. It's more about having deliberate awareness and attention to musical events than doing dry exercises 3 times a week I think.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 08-21-2020 at 11:38 AM.

  4. #3

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    Honestly, I think you are having to do ear training, you need to put more ear work into all aspects of your playing. Ear training = practicing your instrument really. Sight reading is ear training too, because you have to audiate rhythms.

    Formal ear training is about naming things. That may be useful in some instance. But I've not noticed a direct connection between my functional pitch recognition and my ability to play phrases on the guitar by ear. It's like they are two seperate things.

  5. #4

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    Ocean is a good word for this.
    We got fingers,ears,eyes,theory and finally feelings. Connections both ways between the various info bits - it is the ocean, yep.

  6. #5

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    A fun tool would be a recording of jazz phrases of increasing length and complexity, with a space for the listener to duplicate the phrase. Certainly not the same, at all, as doing this live with a teacher who can challenge with changes of pace and unexpected ideas, but it could still be a useful and even fun tool for the teacher-less middling player.

  7. #6

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    Completely agree. Pitch recognition is very important, but it's just one aspect of having "great ears."

    I'm thinking in particular of two guys whose ears were legendary: Mozart and Pierre Boulez. Mozart (allegedly) wrote down Allegri's "Miserere" after hearing it once while he was still a child. Boulez was famous for being able to conduct the most thorny 20th century repertoire without a score in front of him.

    Perfect pitch? Almost certainly. But that can't be all there is to it. Just being able to recognize pitches isn't enough to memorize something like Wozzeck, anymore than being able to recognize numbers is enough to memorize pi to 100 digits.

    And I can certainly attest that Barry Harris' workshops are exhausting, I would come out of them feeling like my brain was fried (didn't help that they ended well after midnight most weeks).

  8. #7

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    I once had the pleasure of observing a conducting class with Boulez. Schoenbergs piano concerto. He was singing all lines in solfege...(which is the way the French do I guess) but from memory

  9. #8

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    TBF Miserere is quite repetitive. I’m more impressed by Boulez tbh lol

  10. #9

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    Agreed, the ocean.

    I've mentioned before that the biggest influence on my playing really started when I was the guitarist of the host band of an open mic, four hours every Sunday evening for ten years. That was over 2000 hours of highly focused performance in a challenging situation for an ear player like me. The host band itself had about 80 tunes of a wide variety, and half the time the drummer or the bass player was a sub sitting in (because we were all in other bands), and about half the time the host band had sax or trumpets. The guest musicians that showed up to play called a wide variety of additional songs including their own compositions which we usually accompanied, unheard. Every evening was an adventure, a challenging live learning session, and a glorious bunch of fun.

    I was always quite fearless in the prospect of the unexpected, but as the years passed that evolved into a calm legitimate confidence playing the tunes I'd never heard with people I'd just met... I guess that would be the deep end of the ocean; a wonderful place to swim.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone
    A fun tool would be a recording of jazz phrases of increasing length and complexity, with a space for the listener to duplicate the phrase. Certainly not the same, at all, as doing this live with a teacher who can challenge with changes of pace and unexpected ideas, but it could still be a useful and even fun tool for the teacher-less middling player.
    Hey Lawson... your playing is really coming on btw, very much enjoyed your last videos. Can I point out you can also do the above exercise with a recording? I might suggest something simple at first like a Jim Hall, Charlie Christian or Grant Green solo. Or Chet Baker, Miles, Prez or Paul Desmond if you fancy getting away from the guitar...

  12. #11

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    Actually there’s nothing wrong with water wings although you may have to be pushed to discard them eventually. Getting in the water is the most important thing.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Hey Lawson... your playing is really coming on btw, very much enjoyed your last videos. Can I point out you can also do the above exercise with a recording? I might suggest something simple at first like a Jim Hall, Charlie Christian or Grant Green solo. Or Chet Baker, Miles, Prez or Paul Desmond if you fancy getting away from the guitar...
    I've actually done some transcription. This exercise strikes me as something else, kind of a dueling guitars scenario.

    But... I need to back off playing pre-written solos, much as I enjoy them, and try some off-the-record borrowing.

  14. #13

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    There is not much talk about the exhaustion when learning/practicing. But found some blog about learning a language in the internet. They said that its a good thing... feeling "spent" I mean.
    Makes sense actually. Comparing to physical training now. When just keeping a good shape, all we need is to do a light training now and then. It takes so little effort to keep whatever is gained compared to pushing forward and getting better... muscle, endurance etc. Skills maybe.

    But this thread made me remember one interesting thing from 20ish years ago.
    I went to some guitar festivals abroad. So I needed to be able to talk in English. I've had only had learned some in school but with no practical usage in real life. Internet was useless also in those times. So - some schooling, some songs. Thats it.
    But I was so excited to go and for a few weeks, I used English... when thinking. About anything. Occasionally looked some words up.
    This worked like magic. I was surprised to hear myself babble away with no hiccups later.

    Anyway - a good question time: how much time do we spend thinking about music? If only when learning and practicing, then that might not be enough for bigger ambitions.

  15. #14

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    Oh god yeah. If you aren't tired after practicing for an hour, you aren't really practicing.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Hey Lawson... your playing is really coming on btw, very much enjoyed your last videos. Can I point out you can also do the above exercise with a recording? I might suggest something simple at first like a Jim Hall, Charlie Christian or Grant Green solo. Or Chet Baker, Miles, Prez or Paul Desmond if you fancy getting away from the guitar...
    Thanks so much for that little encouragement at the start. I should also say one of the most productive things I've done was follow your suggestion of patting on 1 and 3 rather than 1-2-3-4. It was perfect to try with the written out solos I'd memorized and immediately smoothed out some parts I was having trouble with. I'm trying to make alternate beats my default way of counting time.

    I might pull out some recording and try to match phrases spontaneously and see how it goes.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone
    I've actually done some transcription. This exercise strikes me as something else, kind of a dueling guitars scenario.

    But... I need to back off playing pre-written solos, much as I enjoy them, and try some off-the-record borrowing.
    You've gone through plenty of material. I'd suggest you come up with your own solos... even if you hear a line in your head, figure out the line on guitar, write the line down... sort of like transcribing what you hear in your head. Maybe you'll find the Charlie Parker lines might be ingrained and come out on their own.

    Myself, I often solo in really slow motion. Probably why I like ballads.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep
    You've gone through plenty of material. I'd suggest you come up with your own solos... even if you hear a line in your head, figure out the line on guitar, write the line down... sort of like transcribing what you hear in your head. Maybe you'll find the Charlie Parker lines might be ingrained and come out on their own.

    Myself, I often solo in really slow motion. Probably why I like ballads.
    I don't think it's an either/or. If inspiration is a little hard to come by there's no better way to get the juices flowing than doing a little listen/play. Creativity and listening go hand in hand. Some people seem to think listening to music and getting into it inhibits creativity. I have always found the opposite.

    My advice is to be aware of exactly what you are specifically working on
    - to practice playing lines that you hear on the instrument, then listen to the line, and play it back.
    - to work your memory, work on your recall of progressively longer phrases.
    - to play something perfectly note for note, slow it down where you need to.
    - for fast and fluent ears, train at speed and approximate a little at first.
    - to practice improvising by ear on your instrument, play phrases on your instrument
    - to practice dictation to notation, try to write it down without an instrument. (I find this a completely different thing.)
    And so on...

    Obviously, writing things down is not part of the core process of improvising or playing jazz, for all that it's a useful skill. Barry would discourage it in class. Reason why is that you want to work your musical memory. Anyway Berliner goes into some detail on this, it's quite interesting.

    Barry seems to prioritise fast and fluent ears, and musical memory above perfect accuracy (although he will stop and correct some errors) and notational fluency.
    Last edited by christianm77; 08-21-2020 at 07:22 PM.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    I once had the pleasure of observing a conducting class with Boulez. Schoenbergs piano concerto. He was singing all lines in solfege...(which is the way the French do I guess) but from memory
    I met Boulez back in the late '80s at the Avignon Festival and observed rehearsals with the Ensemble Intercontemporain. An incredible experience to witness him working up close! However, even someone with a seemingly infallible ear like Boulez felt the heat in Messiaen's harmony classes:


  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Oh god yeah. If you aren't tired after practicing for an hour, you aren't really practicing.
    nowadays I am tired after an hour of doing anyting...

    I catched the "awerness" (related to aural happenings). I think when we are thinking about understanding music performances (both jazz, both classical) we wrongly only focus on musical skills. My experience that awarness is more general skill. The motivation and ability to notice every little detail and happenings, and details... some people are tuned to this, some people will not understand, even if after the happening someone try to explain them all details and observations. Maybe my explanation is cloudy, I mean without a general awarness attitude and personality there is no chance to understand a classical music or jazz performance, even the listener have perfect pitch.

  21. #20

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    I found my listening skills increased substantially when I started writing my own compositions. But I didn’t do good exercises so I cannot compare.


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  22. #21

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    Berliner's book is fantastic, A bit heavy though, I recommend reading a pdf version on a tablet and annotating it. (there are excellent software tools for that). It's really an eye opener and reading it led me to change many things in my practice

    Back to the topic, ear training is a lot of things. The EarMaster software tool used at a number of music schools (Berklee among others) is also an eye opener, i.e. not only the ear , as it covers a large number of different aspects: aural memory, harmonic hearing, sight singing / hearing. Very well thought out. A session with it is exhausting. I really recommend this tool to any music student, preferably on a tablet (ipad only) and not a desktop computer which is a too constrained environment needing to use more than one's ear: mouse, seating in front of the machine. A tablet is less invasive and closer to being in a musical environment (like reading a score).

    I have zero interest in the Earmaster company by the way

    Here is a link to it for the curious folks: EarMaster 7 - The #1 Music Theory & Ear Training Software


  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Or you could work on actual music and learn repertoire etc at the same time?

    I’m not really a fan of exercises per se. Some people like gamification. It can be useful to use dead time on an ear training app. Or have a routine of doing 5m
    a day of that. Could be useful. I’ve gone through periods of doing that.

    In the end I feel if I don’t engage with music directly in totality but rather with exercises and tests, I am always preparing to do music but never actually doing it. What impacts my life is learning more music. Which has both a product and a process benefit...

    I remember EarMaster being based around intervallic ear training and not having any functional scale position based stuff which I don’t like IIRC.

    Again bear in mind the difference between being able to name sounds and being able to play them right away on guitar. These aren’t the same to me at all... I think they are more similar on piano.

    Furthermore people get hung up on that side of it, but the ability to retain phrases, melodies and so on is extremely important. Ear training apps might have settings that help but in the end what better way to practice than by learning the melodies of songs you want to play?

    Lastly I think a lot of these apps misunderstand the way the human ear works. We don’t just recognise painstakingly note by note, interval by interval, chord by chord; we recognise objects - licks, tunes, progression and chord voicings that we play a lot - right away.
    Didn't say I only practiced with EarMaster ! Also worked on tunes, transcribing, etc .. I agree all of that contributes to one's know how and that we recognize isn't just one note a time, not even an interval i.e. two notes. EarMaster also trains to recognize chords and phrases.

    EarMaster was practiced no more than 10 to 15 mn a day. I appreciated its structured approach and framework. I wasn't yet able to set up myself, nor anyone I knew (music teacher included !) . That reminds me of what you said about Barry Harris, how things are taught might be as or more educative than what is taught.

    Did you follow all EarMaster lessons or only a specific set ? It's quite a long term commitment.

    Jazz is said to be a communication language and like most languages, we grow our knowledge of it both though hearing and reading and speaking, I doubt that missing one of these works well. Deaf persons have a hard time learning to speak ...Blind persons can't write.

    About reading, no one is enumerating characters !! we recognize objects,, but one must first to learn how object are built, graphic symbol components on one hand (no pun intended) and elementary sounds (so to speak !). Kids spend a number of years just to learn the elementary sounds ... Students of foreign language do the same, some even fail to master the sounds correctly.

    Some languages even have no written form. I recommend visiting the language museum in Paris , 5th district, another eye opener. I entered out of curiosity once, and ended up spending a lot of hours in there.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by mhch
    Didn't say I only practiced with EarMaster ! Also worked on tunes, transcribing, etc .. I agree all of that contributes to one's know how and that we recognize isn't just one note a time, not even an interval i.e. two notes. EarMaster also trains to recognize chords and phrases.

    EarMaster was practiced no more than 10 to 15 mn a day. I appreciated its structured approach and framework. I wasn't yet able to set up myself, nor anyone I knew (music teacher included !) . That reminds me of what you said about Barry Harris, how things are taught might be as or more educative than what is taught.

    Did you follow all EarMaster lessons or only a specific set ? It's quite a long term commitment.

    Jazz is said to be a communication language and like most languages, we grow our knowledge of it both though hearing and reading and speaking, I doubt that missing one of these works well. Deaf persons have a hard time learning to speak ...Blind persons can't write.

    About reading, no one is enumerating characters !! we recognize objects,, but one must first to learn how object are built, graphic symbol components on one hand (no pun intended) and elementary sounds (so to speak !). Kids spend a number of years just to learn the elementary sounds ... Students of foreign language do the same, some even fail to master the sounds correctly.

    Some languages even have no written form. I recommend visiting the language museum in Paris , 5th district, another eye opener. I entered out of curiosity once, and ended up spending a lot of hours in there.
    yeah I actually deleted that post because I thought it a bit unecessary, but thanks for the thoughtful reply.

    i don’t really know much about EarMaster TBH just what I read on the feature set, I should probably check it out to see if will recommend for students.

    That museum sounds fascinating...

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    yeah I actually deleted that post because I thought it a bit unecessary, but thanks for the thoughtful reply.

    i don’t really know much about EarMaster TBH just what I read on the feature set, I should probably check it out to see if will recommend for students.

    That museum sounds fascinating...
    The Museum | Mundolingua

    Earmaster offers several levels, At each level one learns definitions and practices recognition by ear (dictation) or by eye (sight reading), or both (error recognition), writing/notating, sight singing (you can do that using your voice or an instrument) which works very well, attention being paid on pitch and duration accuracy). Those levels are
    - beginners: note / rest oriented, notation of pitches and duration, a bit of interval hearing and comparison, 4/4 and 3/4 time signatures
    - General workshops: the whole thing in depth, intervals, chords, rhythm, melody, chord progressions
    - jazz : chord, chord progressions, rhythm, scales, melody
    - RCM level
    Plus one can create his own tailored extra exercises for students

    Earmaster is for the really motivated person, requiring to follow the course over months or years, depending on what level one focuses on.
    Last edited by mhch; 08-22-2020 at 09:30 AM.

  26. #25

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    Seems that formal or traditional education reveals its importance. The majority of jazz players dismissed the classical way and after several years of futility We realize the good things solfege does for musicians.
    People use to say that classical musicians are pure sigth readers but it is not right, may be they doesn't work improvisation but the reveal to be profficient in it with less time of work. They are good sight readers and sight singers and can apply that easily.
    Anyway I think the actual ear training education boom, comes from the necessity of overcontrol; We want to control every aspect of the line but jazz is liquid music, is about the moment, overcontrol is the contrary of jazz, We have to feel the order in the disorder, the overcontrol leads to stability, to rigid music, that is not jazz.