View Poll Results: Shapes or notes? What, in your opinion, is more important?

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  • Shapes

    27 13.57%
  • Notes

    28 14.07%
  • Both

    131 65.83%
  • I kind of just fiddle around and hope to hit the right notes.

    13 6.53%
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  1. #151

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    Quote Originally Posted by andihopkins View Post
    Hey guys,

    I'm a Jazz guitarist from Perth, Australia.
    I started on piano at age 3, but moved to guitar at around 11. I've loved it ever since.

    Just recently I've had a few piano/theory lessons with an amazing local pianist. It's been great seeing things from a different perspective, and I must say that after a few weeks, I am frustrated to realize that I (think) I have been going about the guitar the wrong way ... possibly working backwards in a sense.

    I started (and have been) learning the way most guitarist's learn - shapes and patterns.
    All these educational and instructional books/dvds seem to be filled to the rim with a million different patterns & shapes. And like a good, eager student, I have tried my best to lap them all up.

    But since seeing music from a piano's perspective (which I think we all agree is probably the best perspective to view things from) I've realized that I actually don't know much about the music, scales, chords, etc that I am playing. They are merely just shapes that I have learnt, but don't understand!

    Sure, the shapes are important, but I feel it's working backwards.
    The note's are the ingredients that make up the music, not the shapes.
    And if one knows the notes, he can create a chord, arpeggio or scale anywhere on the fretboard... just as a pianist can.

    Anywho, I could talk about this forever. But it seems that the guitar world is more interested in shapes, diagrams and patterns (being that it is easier) than actually learning and understanding the fretboard.

    It appears the logical way to learn any instrument... Am I crazy? What do you guys think?

    Feel free to also throw in any personal techniques in learning the fretboard

    Cheers,
    Andy
    Right on! I think your observations are very accurate. That's a great post and thread topic. Yes, guitar education has it backwards. There are serious flaws of the shape centric view of guitar.
    Yes, these shapes, positions etc. exist on the fretboard whether one acknowledges them or not. But that's not the point. The point is the thought process.
    The question is when you're playing over the changes, are you instantly AWARE of the notes you're playing and the function of the notes with respect to the chord in the moment or are you just connecting arpeggio or scale shapes?
    It is true that when you're improvising you are not always thinking of the notes. A lot of practice habits and aural decisions come into play. But when you're practicing improvisation, applying concepts to tunes, shapes limit musical understanding.
    The thing is, if your though process (especially when practicing) is based on awareness of notes and their functions, you still end up developing muscle memory of the repeated shapes and mechanical patterns. Those become mental short cuts and abstractions of your practice activities. But you retain the awareness of the notes as they become very quickly accessible. But it doesn't go the other way around. If you're thinking shapes, that doesn't automatically give you the instant awareness of notes and their functions.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 09-05-2019 at 12:41 PM.

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  3. #152

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    Here is a simple "test" , given a very simple functional (digital) pattern, say 6-7-3-5. Can you take any tune and play the pattern instantly over the chords of the tune and name the notes at the same time? It doesn't have to be at tempo. That would tell you if you're shape player or not.

    Also given a chord in any key, I think one should be able to instantly tell the function of all 12 notes with respect to the chord (b9, 6th, 3rd etc.) and be able to instantly find them anywhere on the fretboard. Ideally one should also be able to sing and aurally recognize all 12 notes with respect to any chord. Note awareness also help develop. But shapes? good luck with that.
    It should also go the other way round. Given a chord one should be able to note name of any interval (function) and instantly find it anywhere on the fretboard.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 09-18-2019 at 06:47 AM.

  4. #153

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    Readers are shapes players too

  5. #154

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Readers are shapes players too
    True but improvisation is a lot more like composing than reading.

  6. #155

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    True but improvisation is a lot more like composing than reading.
    Well my tutor said this, which is counter intuitive and interesting.

    Reading and improvisation have a lot in common.

    You aren’t reading notes. You are composing a piece from a set of symbolic instructions. If you know lots of Mozart you are better at reading Mozart.

    I’m better at sight reading Charlie Parker than Coltrane, for instance. Transcribing too.

    Good sight readers are therefore master improvisers within a very specific framework.

  7. #156

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Well my tutor said this, which is counter intuitive and interesting.

    Reading and improvisation have a lot in common.

    You aren’t reading notes. You are composing a piece from a set of symbolic instructions. If you know lots of Mozart you are better at reading Mozart.

    I’m better at sight reading Charlie Parker than Coltrane, for instance. Transcribing too.

    Good sight readers are therefore master improvisers within a very specific framework.
    I don't see it. Knowing how to read isn't necessary to improvise well. And, being able to improvise doesn't mean you can read anything.

    Reading is not composing. It is following coded instructions. Or is there a joke I'm missing here?

  8. #157

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    I don't see it. Knowing how to read isn't necessary to improvise well. And, being able to improvise doesn't mean you can read anything.

    Reading is not composing. It is following coded instructions. Or is there a joke I'm missing here?
    Reading = sight reading here. Generally that’s how people use it in my neck of the woods. If you say you can read you are saying you can sight read.

    I could ask my tutor if he was joking but I don’t think he was. One point he made is actually good sight readers familiar with a composer’s style will correct misprints. So they aren’t actually reading the notes.

    OTOH actually quite a lot of professional sight reading is ‘faking it’ and keeping the flow going in those sections that are too hard to read accurately at first glance. (Obviously this wouldn’t happen for familiar repertoire, but with hard new music it’s common.) What is the musician doing in these situations?

    (I do the same thing in chord charts very often when the harmony is a little busy and non standard. I do what I can and keep the beat going. OTOH if I see a heavily subbed chord progression on a fast number I see the basic progression and then add on the subs in my head, catching as many as I can. No doubt you do something similar.)

    And what makes a good reader? Same thing as an improviser. Lost of contact with music, lots of playing experience with other musicians. (This is why those atonal reading exercises I think are kind of unhelpful unless you mean to sight read Webern for a living - music is a language not a collection of syllables.)

    I’m not sure how much I agree, but I’m entertaining the thought as I’m always interested in finding commonalities and unities.

    Improvising is not making up music on the spot either. Not really. Not most of time. Master improvisers can approach this closer, and others create that impression by being very skilled, but everyone starts by using licks and composed material before they are ready to move onto other techniques. (At least that’s the proven, time honoured way to start.)

    So there’s not in effect any difference between a learning player improvising with 50 Parker licks you learned off the records and sight reading solos from the Omnibook - if you understand how the notation represents the lines. Ask a horn player.

    Shapes, right?

    Of course when you start doing your own stuff, you can do this. But you pass through a process of becoming familiar with music. Most guitarists don’t do that through notation....
    Last edited by christianm77; 09-18-2019 at 05:38 AM.

  9. #158

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post

    OTOH actually quite a lot of professional sight reading is ‘faking it’ and keeping the flow going in those sections that are too hard to read accurately at first glance. (Obviously this wouldn’t happen for familiar repertoire, but with hard new music it’s common.) What is the musician doing in these situations?
    So a very excellent sight reader never have to improvise.

    I see some overlap of skills. But I don't think it goes far enough to draw too many parallels between sight reading and improvisation.

  10. #159

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    Also professional classical players I know never put themselves in a situation where they have to read completely new music realtime in a performance. They are given their parts in advance also they often find recordings to listen to. There is almost always rehearsals. All these reduce if not eliminate the need to fake things on the spot.

  11. #160

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    Also professional classical players I know never put themselves in a situation where they have to read completely new music realtime in a performance. They are given their parts in advance also they often find recordings to listen to. There is almost always rehearsals. All these reduce if not eliminate the need to fake things on the spot.
    Reading on the gig is commonplace in here in London, though it would usually be of a style the player is familiar with. My wife used to do gigs in church sight singing one voice a part, for instance. No one can afford to pay anyone to rehearse. Turn up and sing a service for £50. (Half of these people have been doing that shit since age 6 anyway at choir school.) Probably the stuff is familiar stylistically. And that's considered an unremarkable level of musicianship. That wouldn't get you into the BBC Singers or the Sixteen.

    Obviously you aren't reading in front of an audience not for big/prestigious concerts, but extremely common not just in classical music. And in fact, it is often the case (unless it's John Eliot Gardner or someone who can get more rehearsal time) the WHOLE piece won't have been rehearsed, just troublesome corners.

    One reason why the LSO got all the calls to do film music for ages is because they were CHEAP. Less rehearsal required, music good enough for purpose.

    West end deps too, turn up, sight read a show. You make one mistake, you don't get the call again. Rhythm section players tend to get charts in advance, but most of the horn players I know are beast readers.

    It's funny, kind of fits the (posh) UK mentality which I think is damaging not just to our music. Turn up unprepared, pull it out of the hat, look like sloppy genius. Cultivate a studied nonchalance. Never look like you've worked at it.

  12. #161

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    It's funny, kind of fits the (posh) UK mentality which I think is damaging not just to our music. Turn up unprepared, pull it out of the hat, look like sloppy genius. Cultivate a studied nonchalance. Never look like you've worked at it.
    I'm surprised that's how English see themselves. I always though that English culture valued doing things properly and took more pride in hardwork than talent or luck. May be you guys are just good at faking it

  13. #162

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    Also, orchestras are one thing, but I actually had in mind the instrumentalists I had most contact with as a classical singer - repetiteurs and accompanists. That's sight reading on an (to me) insane level, and without them the classical singing world would simply fall apart.

    They aren't sight reading in performance, but they are for masterclasses, lessons and so on... It's such an important skill.

    Many of the ones who work with singers are able to switch into Broadway and (mainstream) jazz modes as well - sight transpose, read notation from closed or open score, figured bass, chord symbols as well as a slew of other practical musicianship skills.

    To talk about reading in performance or not is a bit irrelevant, because you are still very often sight reading under pressure.

    Sight reading is an everyday skill that gets used all the time in professional music of any kind, at least in my experience.

  14. #163

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    I'm surprised that's how English see themselves. I always though that English culture valued doing things properly and took more pride in hardwork than talent or luck. May be you guys are just good at faking it
    Well, there is fakery involved for sure. But the whole thing is to appear as if you didn't do any work.

  15. #164

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Well, there is fakery involved for sure. But the whole thing is to appear as if you didn't do any work.
    Tommy Tedesco made it look easy..he did "fake" some of his parts..there is a a vid o him telling some studio stories about this kind of stuff

    when you reach studio musician levels your really in a very different world of playing ...the Steely Dan and other "studio musician" groups were far from off the cuff improvising

    Herbie Hancock mentions a John Coltrain solo..on the Kind of Blue album ..he says with total surprise in his voice.."...he just played a major scale!!.."
    Last edited by wolflen; 09-19-2019 at 09:09 PM.
    play well ...
    wolf

  16. #165

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    Quote Originally Posted by wolflen View Post
    Tommy Tedesco made it look easy..he did "fake" some of his parts..there is a a vid o him telling some studio stories about this kind of stuff

    when you reach studio musician levels your really in a very different world of playing ...the Steely Dan and other "studio musician" groups were far from off the cuff improvising

    Herbie Hancock mentions a John Coltrain solo..on the Kind of Blue album ..he says with total surprise in his voice.."...he just played a major scale!!.."
    Sure.... but here’s a thing. How well do you think a classical musician would do in a Steely Dan session?