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  1. #1

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    How was Joe Pass able to play so good without knowing much theory?

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  3. #2

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    what makes you think Pass didn't know "much" theory? How much theory is "not much" or "a lot"? How much "theory" does the most theory-minded jazz musician know?

    This kind of question always puzzles me. A bunch of people have written "jazz theory" books, and what you need to know for many styles of jazz can be explained in a dozen pages or less. And it is easier than 7th grade math, or other topics that nobody is surprised at when at 12 year old learns it.

    What is hard about being a jazz musician is not "theory". What *is* a challenge is
    gaining enough mastery of the "theory" to be able to use it in creative improvisation: this can take years but not because its hard to understand, but to execute. Every couch potato can understand football, very few can play it. It's the same thing.

    Some music styles have very little "intellectual" content, and hence don't require any command of theory. Jazz needs a little

    In any case, I'm sure Pass knew a decent amount of the structure of music, you can tell just by listening.

  4. #3
    You're basically talking about the difference between "knowing" something and "knowing what it's called". It's a good distinction to understand.

    Theory is to music what grammar is to language and writing. As important as grammar is, the truth is that most people who are really good with grammar and writing had excellent examples of speech from their parents and did a lot of reading coming up. Most grammatical rules are INFERRED from usage : speech , writing Etc., much more so than they are learned in the class. It's more just putting labels on things you already "know".

    I was always good at grammar , but I basically always "knew" it, because I had good examples of speech growing up and read a lot. Artists like Joe Pass or West Montgomery "knew" more grammar than most. Maybe they didn't know it was called a Whatever, just like you might not know that something was called a prepositional phrase, to continue with the language analogy, But you know prepositional phrases whether you know what they're called or not , if you know how to speak properly.

    We may continue to evolve what we call things , but most of it is after-the-fact labeling of what's already been played. At a certain point theoretical ideas extrapolated from various sources can inform actual new forms of composition etc., but mostly theory is about just having ways of talking about music, a subject which otherwise might be very abstract.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 05-28-2016 at 10:55 AM.

  5. #4

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    Though I like the two long answers above and agree with them ...

    the short answer is "ear"

  6. #5

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    So many great musicians were/are unschooled. God gave them the gift of what to do and how to do it.

    For so many of us it will not matter who who we study under or for how long.

    and that is why we buy recordings.

  7. #6
    Do you guys find that students tend to get more into memorizing and talking about theory than actually applying those concepts? Instead of more practicing ear training and transcribing? I'm assuming for Joe Pass.. The theory came "after" the playing?

  8. #7
    Was it a gift? Or was their approach (by ear) better than a academic approach? When you first learned how to walk.. You didn't read up on how to walk. You just did it all the time. I hope this makes sense.

  9. #8
    I'd say that most of learning, in any area of life, is done mostly at a very immersive level. No thinking, just taking things in , maybe just repeating by rote. At certain points though, I believe that you're missing out on a lot if you don't use the human minds ability to deal in abstraction, to analyze the whole, see patterns etc. I mean we don't tell kids "don't worry with learning to read , just listen to people talking. you'll get all you ever need. "

    Personally, I'm as distrustful of "no theory" people as "all theory" people.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobsguitars09
    Was it a gift? Or was their approach (by ear) better than a academic approach? When you first learned how to walk.. You didn't read up on how to walk. You just did it all the time. I hope this makes sense.
    There's a legend about Joe Pass's father forcing him to learn tunes in his room for five hours a day when he was in elementary school.

    Gift? Perhaps not.

    The academic approach should include ear training that corresponds to the theory.

  11. #10

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    The legend about Joe's father is more than a little exaggerated. I knew Joe, took some lessons from him, hung out with him. He knew theory quite well, but in his own way. Instead of using terms like "jazz melodic minor" or any other jargon, he broke things down to their easily-understood elements. I learned a ton of theory from him in an hour, all in plain English. He knew his stuff very well.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronjazz
    The legend about Joe's father is more than a little exaggerated. I knew Joe, took some lessons from him, hung out with him. He knew theory quite well, but in his own way. Instead of using terms like "jazz melodic minor" or any other jargon, he broke things down to their easily-understood elements. I learned a ton of theory from him in an hour, all in plain English. He knew his stuff very well.
    I figured that might be the case ... .... point being that he practiced his ass off all the time for a long time. Gift? nah. Bought and paid for.

  13. #12

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    I think our "gifts" as adults are strongly determined by what we were doing with our brains and bodies when our neural networks were developing. I'd guess nearly all top-tier musicians had a high level of musical activity at an early age. I feel that's a stronger factor than genetic "gifts". I think academic work builds on that base but can't replace it. Not that one shouldn't try to start music later in life, but don't expect as rapid progress. I think the strongest factor in development as a musician is a lifetime love, enthusiasm and drive for music, both listening and playing.

    (BTW, I'm not a teacher and have attended no music institutions.)
    Last edited by KirkP; 05-28-2016 at 03:27 PM.

  14. #13

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    Joe Pass was fortunate in that his playing was not stilted by too much "jazz education".

  15. #14

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    if you don't have the good fortune to be immersed in a jazz world then you may be unfortunate enough to have to use descriptions of the music (theory) to learn how to play the music

    i'm not sure it is even possible to learn this way

    but what choice does a player have if they don't have a jazz world to be immersed in?

  16. #15

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    The important thing to take away here is you can play a lot of jazz with little or no "theory."

    Mind you, guitar players usually call a bunch of stuff "theory" that isn't.

  17. #16

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    I don't find Joe Pass to be deficient in a knowledge of theory. His two books, Joe Pass Guitar Method and Joe Pass Guitar Style both distill a massive amount of theory into some very helpful and succinct explanations and exercise. He studied a bit of Carcassi (I think) or some other classical method early on.

    His playing was not theory driven or theory laden, but he could take a line he'd played and explain to you the theory behind it and why it fit the chord that was being played, and how it related to the melody of the tune. That's theory. the fact that the lines were wonderful, beautiful, and often surprising was... the gift.

    The problem with Joe Pass' statements about things is that he loved to pull your leg, and he also didn't always particularly feel like explaining himself.

  18. #17
    destinytot Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Groyniad
    but what choice does a player have if they don't have a jazz world to be immersed in?
    Er... call forth and create one by means of an existential act of self self-expression?

  19. #18

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    Before colleges and universities began offering jazz programs, aspiring jazz musicians learned to play by going to jam sessions to watch and listen to older players. They learned solos from recordings. Older musicians would mentor younger musicians. Sometimes they had a teacher.

    The most frequently asked question was "What was that lick you played in.....?" not "Why did you play that lick....?"

    When universities began offering jazz programs they had to have something to sell, so they sold the idea that that learning theory was the key to becoming a great musician. From the 1970s until today, this idea has dominated all others.

    Music theory has always been an ex post facto attempt to try to explain or understand was has happened before.

    Every great musician that I've ever met has always put playing first. Some of them studied theory formally at some point in their lives, others learned on the bandstand from older musicians. What they all had in common was that they learned to play first.

    For every great name in jazz or classical or any other music that we remember and revere, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Andres Segovia, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Itzhak Perlman, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Raney, Jim Hall, the primary goal was to be able to play. Again, the primary goal was to Play The Music.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by destinytot
    Er... call forth and create one by means of an existential act of self self-expression?
    You just went totally Merleau Ponty on me. No idea what that means.

  21. #20

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    The more I dig into older Jazz musicians the answer is learn to play first using your ear and tunes, later learn some theory to put labels on things. That is how Joe Pass learned and many others music first scholastic stuff later. They learned by doing and listening.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone
    I don't find Joe Pass to be deficient in a knowledge of theory. His two books, Joe Pass Guitar Method and Joe Pass Guitar Style both distill a massive amount of theory into some very helpful and succinct explanations and exercise. He studied a bit of Carcassi (I think) or some other classical method early on.

    His playing was not theory driven or theory laden, but he could take a line he'd played and explain to you the theory behind it and why it fit the chord that was being played, and how it related to the melody of the tune. That's theory. the fact that the lines were wonderful, beautiful, and often surprising was... the gift.

    The problem with Joe Pass' statements about things is that he loved to pull your leg, and he also didn't always particularly feel like explaining himself.

    I think this is important. Joe's favorite guitarist was Django but Joe said he never transcribed any of Django's playing. He seemed much less lick-y than Django (and Charlie and Wes, the other two giants of jazz guitar in Joe's estimation) and more, well, formulaic. (To some, "formulaic" is a bad word but not to me.) The exercises in "Joe Pass Guitar Style" sharpen one's ear, work to avoid lick-y playing (-Joe wrote etudes in unbroken eighth notes to avoid licks and encouraged students to do the same), and, well, show certain formulae of moving chords (and substitute chords) around. That's a giant part of what Joe did. And Joe was a big one for saying that improvisation is NOT just making it up off the top of your head. He knew what he was doing. Inside and out.

    As pkirk said above, the level of theory we are talking about is not that difficult. One may find it boring and not want to learn it, of course, but it's not that complicated.

  23. #22

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    A couple of days ago an interviewer asked a fairly young jazz pro how his study at U of North Texas influenced his playing. He said most of all it gave him a chance to be around great musicians from all over the world. He didn't mention theory or technique.

  24. #23

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    bobsguitars09 - Haha ain't that the question.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes
    I think this is important. Joe's favorite guitarist was Django but Joe said he never transcribed any of Django's playing. He seemed much less lick-y than Django (and Charlie and Wes, the other two giants of jazz guitar in Joe's estimation) and more, well, formulaic. (To some, "formulaic" is a bad word but not to me.) The exercises in "Joe Pass Guitar Style" sharpen one's ear, work to avoid lick-y playing (-Joe wrote etudes in unbroken eighth notes to avoid licks and encouraged students to do the same), and, well, show certain formulae of moving chords (and substitute chords) around. That's a giant part of what Joe did. And Joe was a big one for saying that improvisation is NOT just making it up off the top of your head. He knew what he was doing. Inside and out.

    As pkirk said above, the level of theory we are talking about is not that difficult. One may find it boring and not want to learn it, of course, but it's not that complicated.
    Is Django licky? I never felt so. Modern Gypsy Jazz guitar players can be licky. Django, not really. Rarely repeats himself in the solos I have studied, maybe just the odd run.

    Charlie Christian is very licky, but varies his licks so much that he never gets old.

    Anyway, Joe Pass? Admire his playing, but haven't felt compelled to study it in depth yet.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by monk
    Before colleges and universities began offering jazz programs, aspiring jazz musicians learned to play by going to jam sessions to watch and listen to older players. They learned solos from recordings. Older musicians would mentor younger musicians. Sometimes they had a teacher.

    The most frequently asked question was "What was that lick you played in.....?" not "Why did you play that lick....?"

    When universities began offering jazz programs they had to have something to sell, so they sold the idea that that learning theory was the key to becoming a great musician. From the 1970s until today, this idea has dominated all others.

    Music theory has always been an ex post facto attempt to try to explain or understand was has happened before.

    Every great musician that I've ever met has always put playing first. Some of them studied theory formally at some point in their lives, others learned on the bandstand from older musicians. What they all had in common was that they learned to play first.

    For every great name in jazz or classical or any other music that we remember and revere, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Andres Segovia, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Itzhak Perlman, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Raney, Jim Hall, the primary goal was to be able to play. Again, the primary goal was to Play The Music.
    Thank you for once again making a point I would try to make clearly and succinctly.

    Problem today - too much college, not enough bandstand. Everyone says it. Not the fault of the educators.

  27. #26

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    At it's best, "theory" is not abstraction, but what the Greeks called "theoria" which meant the larger vision of the whole of something.

    Theory at its best results from listening to a lot of good music, talking to a lot of great musicians about how they work, consulting the tradition of musical wisdom, and trying to organize all that is learned into some kind of coherent vision of the world of music and making music.

    Why would we do such a thing? Mainly we do it because humans are inescapably synthesizers. We hunger to find a coherence, an underlying connection in things. A good theory explains the stuff we are trying to study, and also sets us up to anticipate what might happen. A good theory has "predictive" value. For musicians, "good" theory should help us "predict" what will sound good when we play. It takes the infinite range of possibilities resident in our instruments and helps us reduce that to a set of likely ideas.

    A good theory also helps to define what it does not explain. It's just a model. It explains the information we've received by organizing it into some kind of model, and it predicts what might or might not work in the future. Good theories are also always evolving, and sometimes a really good theory... will eliminate itself. Every good theory has to account for a state of affairs in which it would not be needed or useful.

    So to be against theory in music would basically be saying "Let's not really try to understand anything we do; let's not ponder why that was beautiful, why those notes and those chords created tension. Let's not try to have anything helpful to share with those starting out in music. Let's bring all our ignorance and stupidity to every single performance and start from zero every time."

    Bottom line: everyone has a theory. The question remains, is it a good one?

  28. #27

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    How does a fish know how to swim if it never had lessons?


    Theory is a concept that embodies an internal logic that can be arrived at many ways.
    A few years back I was able to attend a lecture at NEC with Benny Golson. Golson, who came up from the days before jazz was taught in schools, was also a great arranger as well as a brilliant composer and tenor soloist.
    I asked him what he thought of the new generation of students who studies and is awarded degrees and credentials without the OJT (On the Job Training) that he grew up with. How did schooled musicians differ from old school musicians?
    His answer surprised me. He told me that he could only wish he had exposure to the things young students are exposed to in school these days. He said he would have given anything for the concentration of information, answers to questions, historical and experiential perspective provided by a well informed faculty.
    But he also said that graduation was the start of the process, and not the end. Getting out there and working as a musician, that's the education. You become a musician by doing it; day in and day out.


    Joe Pass learned what he learned in his life, and he applied it. Had be been exposed to different people, he'd have come to use different resources, but in the end, he played what he knew and who he was. That's something any musician of integrity needs to do.


    David


    (P.S. How does a fish know how to swim? It must spend a lot of time in schools.)

  29. #28

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    One of my favorite Jazz pianists today who has taught at a few colleges and lately at the most well known Jazz college in one of his training video says he's never opened a theory book in his life. He knows the terminology so he can talk Jazz with anyone. In one of his videos he says, my approach is very easy to follow because it's non-scholarly, but it produces very exact effects.

    One of the popular teacher here is Carol Kaye another non-theory type. If you dig in to musicians you like, even teacher not all of them are theory types or they are ones who over time let it go. Nothing wrong with theory it is a good tool, but I think today people are more focused on it because schools want you to believe you need to pay them a lot of money in order to do something. Some people are like rules and theory is a good organizational tool for them. I personally think people should learn enough theory to be able to communicate with other musicians. Schools can be good to guide people down a path and save some time. In the end it's all about you and how you learn best. How person X learned may not work for you, we are all unique.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz
    How does a fish know how to swim if it never had lessons?


    Theory is a concept that embodies an internal logic that can be arrived at many ways.
    A few years back I was able to attend a lecture at NEC with Benny Golson. Golson, who came up from the days before jazz was taught in schools, was also a great arranger as well as a brilliant composer and tenor soloist.
    I asked him what he thought of the new generation of students who studies and is awarded degrees and credentials without the OJT (On the Job Training) that he grew up with. How did schooled musicians differ from old school musicians?
    His answer surprised me. He told me that he could only wish he had exposure to the things young students are exposed to in school these days. He said he would have given anything for the concentration of information, answers to questions, historical and experiential perspective provided by a well informed faculty.
    But he also said that graduation was the start of the process, and not the end. Getting out there and working as a musician, that's the education. You become a musician by doing it; day in and day out.


    Joe Pass learned what he learned in his life, and he applied it. Had be been exposed to different people, he'd have come to use different resources, but in the end, he played what he knew and who he was. That's something any musician of integrity needs to do.


    David


    (P.S. How does a fish know how to swim? It must spend a lot of time in schools.)
    Yeah, I agree. The environment that produces the jazz musician is the bandstand - everything else is the icing on the cake.

    Nothing wrong with theory. Jim Hall was a college schooled musician, for example, and just as much a badass as anyone. But being on the stand with Sonny etc has to be worth more than anything.

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz
    How does a fish know how to swim if it never had lessons?


    Theory is a concept that embodies an internal logic that can be arrived at many ways.
    A few years back I was able to attend a lecture at NEC with Benny Golson. Golson, who came up from the days before jazz was taught in schools, was also a great arranger as well as a brilliant composer and tenor soloist.
    I asked him what he thought of the new generation of students who studies and is awarded degrees and credentials without the OJT (On the Job Training) that he grew up with. How did schooled musicians differ from old school musicians?
    His answer surprised me. He told me that he could only wish he had exposure to the things young students are exposed to in school these days. He said he would have given anything for the concentration of information, answers to questions, historical and experiential perspective provided by a well informed faculty.
    But he also said that graduation was the start of the process, and not the end. Getting out there and working as a musician, that's the education. You become a musician by doing it; day in and day out.


    Joe Pass learned what he learned in his life, and he applied it. Had be been exposed to different people, he'd have come to use different resources, but in the end, he played what he knew and who he was. That's something any musician of integrity needs to do.


    David


    (P.S. How does a fish know how to swim? It must spend a lot of time in schools.)
    Poor analogy. A fish swimming, a baby crying, many things are hard-coded in our genes. Fish who do not swim die, and fail to reproduce. Only fish successful in swimming reproduce and propagate the ocean.

    Humans and music are high-order cultural realities which are not entirely hard-coded into our chances for reproductive success as a species. Languages, for example, are all different, though the genetic make up of our speech centers in the brain and speech organs are universally the same.

    Also playing an instrument is a manual skill that must be learned, it is an artifice, not a genetically encoded survival adaptation. It isn't like a child learning its first language. It's more like an adult learning Latin or French. We don't get the blank slate again once we're grown.

    Well framed theory can help to compress the 6-10 years of 24/7 immersion that a child needs to learn to speak a mother tongue effectively into 2-3 years or 7-10 hours a week for an adult to learn a second language well enough to function very nicely in another culture. That's theory at work.

    I'm so glad we don't have to learn jazz by getting thrown out of jam sessions, having cymbals thrown at us by irate drummers, being laughed at and having drinks thrown at us, and having our instruments taken away from us bodily in mid-chorus. Much as we romanticize that type of music learning, I know of nobody who would volunteer for it.

    Experience is a very effective teacher, but not always the most accurate teacher, and it is always the most expensive teacher.

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone
    Poor analogy. A fish swimming...,
    Sigh. You're not seeing the double meaning of what I was saying, that swimming in a school, i.e.. the everyday life of being in a rich environment, is different from going to a school. But in the end, it's what you learn through your time within.

    Yes, you're right. Poor example. I shouldn't need to explain my jokes.

    David

  33. #32

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    It's a complete myth. The guy has a freaking theory book. Watch any video he does, he knows exactly what he is doing.

  34. #33

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    Michael Brecker was quite well known among his peers for not being able to name his chords and scales by conventional nomenclature. But he had it all. And more.

    David

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone
    Poor analogy. A fish swimming, a baby crying, many things are hard-coded in our genes. Fish who do not swim die, and fail to reproduce. Only fish successful in swimming reproduce and propagate the ocean.

    Humans and music are high-order cultural realities which are not entirely hard-coded into our chances for reproductive success as a species. Languages, for example, are all different, though the genetic make up of our speech centers in the brain and speech organs are universally the same.

    Also playing an instrument is a manual skill that must be learned, it is an artifice, not a genetically encoded survival adaptation. It isn't like a child learning its first language. It's more like an adult learning Latin or French. We don't get the blank slate again once we're grown.

    Well framed theory can help to compress the 6-10 years of 24/7 immersion that a child needs to learn to speak a mother tongue effectively into 2-3 years or 7-10 hours a week for an adult to learn a second language well enough to function very nicely in another culture. That's theory at work.

    I'm so glad we don't have to learn jazz by getting thrown out of jam sessions, having cymbals thrown at us by irate drummers, being laughed at and having drinks thrown at us, and having our instruments taken away from us bodily in mid-chorus. Much as we romanticize that type of music learning, I know of nobody who would volunteer for it.

    Experience is a very effective teacher, but not always the most accurate teacher, and it is always the most expensive teacher.
    That's an interesting contention. I wonder if anyone has really investigated this with reference to music education?

    I can only speak for myself, but I learn far more playing with other musicians and especially in front of audiences that on my own. Why? Because everything is different. Simple things become hard. Mistakes are so much more critical.

    Negative emotions are part of this experience, and are a powerful incentive to learn. From my own experience:

    - I need to learn these tunes because that was embarrassing and I'll doubt I'll get that gig again if play like that on the next date.
    - I missed the modulation to Eb in the tune I didn't know and didn't have time to dig out a chart for on the dance gig and then I sounded horrendous when they cued me in for a solo.
    - My technique isn't cutting it for the faster tempos the band leader calls that hard tune in at because he's nervous. The tune almost fell apart.
    - I need to work on my reading or at least my counting because when I came in a bar early on that big band chart the ground could have swallowed me up.
    - I seem to be tensing up really bad in my right hand playing with other musicians in a loud environment - how can I work on that?
    - I still have no idea what to play on diminished chords. Must shed some ideas next week, perhaps transcribe some lines, check out some scales.

    And so on and so forth. All of these things have happened to me, and this sort of stuff will continue to happen... And will help me grow. It doesn't kill you.

    You learn to not take these things too seriously - i.e. you don't let them mess you up. You learn not to apologise for your playing however poorly you think it went. But you make damn sure to work on them. Without these sorts of daily things, my practice would lack meaning and definition.

    But there are many positive ways of learning too - for example, listening to the inspiring playing of your fellow musicians, grooving with a great rhythm section, finally realising you are making progress on your weak spots or falling love with an awesome tune someone calls on the gig that you've never played before.

    So much of the learning in jazz is intuitive too, below the radar, apparent only to the audience or those outside the band. A band that tours together learns an incredible amount without realising it.

    The bandstand... That's all there is really. I'm just sad that not everyone gets enough opportunity to play.
    Last edited by christianm77; 05-28-2016 at 05:06 PM.

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by monk
    When universities began offering jazz programs they had to have something to sell, so they sold the idea that that learning theory was the key to becoming a great musician. From the 1970s until today, this idea has dominated all others.
    There's some truth in that. When I was in high school my GF had an older brother who went to Indiana University School of Music to study jazz guitar, primarily because David Baker was there. The university was basically in the business of selling educations to anyone who would pay the tuition.

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77

    Negative emotions are part of this experience, and are a powerful incentive to learn. From my own experience:

    - I need to learn these tunes because that was embarrassing and I'll doubt I'll get that gig again if play like that on the next date.
    - I missed the modulation to Eb in the tune I didn't know and didn't have time to dig out a chart for on the dance gig and then I sounded horrendous when they cued me in for a solo.
    - My technique isn't cutting it for the faster tempos the band leader calls that hard tune in at because he's nervous. The tune almost fell apart.
    - I need to work on my reading or at least my counting because when I came in a bar early on that big band chart the ground could have swallowed me up.
    - I seem to be tensing up really bad in my right hand playing with other musicians in a loud environment - how can I work on that?
    - I still have no idea what to play on diminished chords. Must shed some ideas next week, perhaps transcribe some lines, check out some scales.

    And so on and so forth. .
    This is exactly how I see it. I think you and I need to found the NJGS, i.e. the "neurotic jazz guitarist society." ;-)

  38. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobsguitars09
    How was Joe Pass able to play so good without knowing much theory?
    How do we know that Joe didn't know much theory? Because he'd say so in interviews. But Joe was pretty well known for spinning a bit of a yarn to interviewers and those comments can't necessarily be taken as gospel. I've got one lf his instructional videos and at one point he spins off on theory for substitutions for a bit, stops himself and says "well, I'm not usually much of a theory guy" but it was pretty clear that he had a good grasp.

    That said, Joe also talked about simplifying theory to make it more readily usable on the fly- like treating the ii-V as just a V. "Why complicate it?" was his comment.

    Joe also built a vocabulary at a very young age, learning many songs by ear and internalizing how music works. His generation often heard music on the radio and developed the skill of picking up a tune fast. There is a story of Johnny Smith hearing a Barney Kessel tune on a record, saying "hey, play that again" and playing along note for note on the second hearing. Joe could probably do that sort of thing too, as could many of that generation. A lot of big band guys learned those arrangements by ear, not by reading. They copped things off records. They could hear where the music was going. As jazz became more complicated, of course, more theoretical knowledge was needed and there were some heavy-duty jazz theoreticians like George Russell, etc.

    It's amazing to us because we've grown up in another era- one with thousands of instruction and theory books, videos, etc. We don't develop the ear as the primary way to learn music.

  39. #38

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    From articles and interviews in mags and videos online, my understanding is that Joe's father was a pretty strict taskmaster as he did not want Joe to grow up working in the mills as he did. Joe practiced before and after school and did have lessons in classical guitar from some Italian musicians in the neighborhood.

    There was a beautiful saying attributed to one of our world's geniuses that was about the elegance of simplicity - sorry, I can't recall it verbatim. But Joe knew his theory and elegantly simplified it. He often joked if it was hard to play, he was not interested in terms of odd fingerings. He wanted simplicity and fluency. Of course, he had the 'bop element' in his playing as well. His final recordings are quieter and more reflective. Joe was a genius as a guitarist and one would suspect a regular guy to hang with. Ron? Stories? I never got to see Joe Pass play live. That's bad.

  40. #39

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    When you watch Joe Pass play, at least when I do, one thing jumps out at me. He has textbook perfect technique. I'm not saying it's the only way to play, but he never hooks his thumb over, plays with all 4 fingers of the LH, with the RH he doesn't prop on his pinkie or anchor, but holds his hand naturally and free when playing with a pick. When playing finger style, he really seems to keep his hands in a fairly close approximation to the classical position.

    On his LH, what I also notice is he never seems to reach or stretch. The next note is always somehow conveniently right under his fingers. Somewhere along the way, Joe Pass learned a kind of economic technique that to me speaks of the classical type of training. Almost all self-taught guitarist hook the LH thumb, under-use the pinky, reach and stretch too much, or prop/anchor the RH somehow. Joe's hands are a textbook illustration of traditionally correct technique.

    Just something I notice obsessing over his every note for the last 20 years!

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone
    I don't find Joe Pass to be deficient in a knowledge of theory. His two books, Joe Pass Guitar Method and Joe Pass Guitar Style both distill a massive amount of theory into some very helpful and succinct explanations and exercise. He studied a bit of Carcassi (I think) or some other classical method early on.

    His playing was not theory driven or theory laden, but he could take a line he'd played and explain to you the theory behind it and why it fit the chord that was being played, and how it related to the melody of the tune. That's theory. the fact that the lines were wonderful, beautiful, and often surprising was... the gift.

    The problem with Joe Pass' statements about things is that he loved to pull your leg, and he also didn't always particularly feel like explaining himself.

    I thought I read that Carol Kaye wrote at least one of those.....

    and imho, we go off the rails when we insist on making a "science" out of this art, like focusing on DaVinci's paint formula instead of his vision.
    Last edited by boatheelmusic; 05-28-2016 at 07:36 PM.

  42. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by boatheelmusic
    I thought I read that Carol Kaye wrote at least one of those.....

    and imho, we go off the rails when we insist on making a "science" out of this art, like focusing on DaVinci's paint formula instead of his vision.

    Bill Thrasher worked with Pass on the Joe Pass Guitar Style. there was a thread here in the past trying to save Bill's archive of teachings.

    https://www.jazzguitar.be/forum/every...-treasure.html

  43. #42

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    I just have to give my thumbs up to the new avatar's of Lawson-Stone and DestinyTot!

    Back to the thread.

  44. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by boatheelmusic
    I thought I read that Carol Kaye wrote at least one of those.....

    and imho, we go off the rails when we insist on making a "science" out of this art, like focusing on DaVinci's paint formula instead of his vision.
    Da Vinci is a poor example for your case because he actually gives us the science and mechanics that were in fact behind his art. his sketch books showing how he dissected dead... things ... informed how he painted the human form. His studies in geometry found direct expression in some of his loveliest work.

    As for Carol Kaye "writing" one of the books, not likely. She surely helped, and she surely made a huge contribution, but that was not always a happy relationship. You listen to Joe Pass talk about music when he's not pulling your leg or whatever, and he shows a rigorous grasp of what he's doing.

    Obviously he didn't learn it theory-first, and neither should we. But Joe Pass is not a very good example in favor of the anti-theory approach. He knew his stuff.

  45. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by boatheelmusic
    I thought I read that Carol Kaye wrote at least one of those.....
    Carol Kaye was the original publisher of "Joe Pass Guitar Style." The original edition came with a cassette that featured Joe playing selected examples from the book. There is now a CD version that has Joe's playing from the original cassette and Carol's playing of many more examples than would fit on the cassette. She said Joe was not a great reader (--Carol is a world-class reader) but that he took great care in the writing of the lines for that book. They weren't just things he tossed off: they were well thought out. She talked about the "cohesiveness" of Joe's playing and that is indeed a great strength of it.

  46. #45

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    Jimmy Bruno interviewed a bunch of musicians and posted the video on his old instruction site,
    before he left the ArtistWorks organization. I don't know if this stuff is available at his new site.

    One of these is with John Pisano who worked extensively with Joe Pass. Bruno interviews Pisano
    about Pass, talk about your 'Italian Holiday.' Relax, I'm of Italian extraction myself.

    From this I got a wonderful sense of Pass as an unpredictably, irascibly temperamental, deeply
    neurotic, typically very sweet, occasionally obsessive, touched-by-God-talented musician
    who didn't care to plan ahead or practice except under duress.

    I know for a fact that Joe Pass was a space alien, controlled by other space aliens from an
    underground base on the dark side of the moon. Joe's entire schtick was an act to conceal this.
    Space aliens don't need no steenkin' theory, but that doesn't mean they don't know it.

  47. #46
    destinytot Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone
    You just went totally Merleau Ponty on me. No idea what that means.
    Shifting the spectrum isn't for everyone. But if that's what it takes, it's what I want to do - and be a Pilgrim.
    “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no 'brief candle' to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.” George Bernard Shaw.
    Last edited by destinytot; 05-29-2016 at 03:42 AM. Reason: Attribution

  48. #47

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    Theory is descriptive, not prescriptive. I'm thinking that even if he didn't know a b5b9b11's name -- perhaps he did, perhaps he didn't -- he damned well knew what it sounded like in a progression, and made use of that knowledge.

    And then guys like us came along and dissected it in theoretical terms in order to absorb the lesson.

    Just a thought.

  49. #48

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    Joe Pass Guitar Chords. A window into his mind. It is the primacy of the ear.

  50. #49

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    How did Joe Pass play so good despite never spending hours debating stuff on internet forums? ;-)

  51. #50

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    How did Joe Pass play so good despite never spending hours debating stuff on internet forums? ;-)
    Great point. Case in point. Django was a good player. He injured his hand early on (it was some coding issue involving a malicious firewall) and gave up cyber distractions at that point.
    Well the rest is history
    David