The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #301

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    Playing jazz is learning without limits ... ear-theory, theory-ear, theory-theory, ear-ear ... etc

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #302

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris
    Playing jazz is learning without limits ... ear-theory, theory-ear, theory-theory, ear-ear ... etc
    Hi, K,
    Yes . . . and this is true in the totality of life. The most successful humans in our lineage were omnivores. And, a mind with omnivorous interests contributes immensely to both the large and small successes in our lives.
    Marinero
    Homo Sapiens/Neanderthalensis

  4. #303

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    I dunno after 12+ pages I’m starting to appreciate Jimmy’s sense of humour.

  5. #304

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    Given that the number of sounds is infinite, and I am only capable of learning them one at a time, patience is a virtue.

    Also virtuous is anything that might make the process a bit more efficient. Since the human brain seems to be pretty good at memorizing songs, something that your brain recognizes as a song -- and can be categorized using theory or aural-whatever -- might just be useful on the bandstand.

    If your brain can recognize a sophisticated jazz solo as a song, which takes a good deal of repetition for some of us (not to mention myself by name), even better.
    Our brians are pretty good at learning stuff on the quiet when we don’t realise it, despite our best attempts or muck up the whole process.

  6. #305

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    Yea... maybe we should post more of our own playing, LOL. Not like memorized best you have... more of the actual playing live examples. Disclaimer, I do this a lot. I subbed for Friend (piano) last night with a Big band. We played outside in a large courtyard. I showed up and was handed the Book and started performing... about 30% of the tunes weren't in the book so I used my ears and followed at a distance .... the bass players book... the horn sections were diggin it... we were smokin.

    All I'm saying is most good musicians have great ears.... and then some of the understand theory and can sight read as well. It's much more fun to perform with the latter. We as rhythm section players, at least most of the time, should understand theory and sight read... again it's a given that we have big ears. How could one expect to play Jazz .... live jazz without them?

  7. #306
    Are they mutually exclusive? I guess the OP is asking whether theory helps more than the old pre-college method of learning. I think it depends on who’s participating in it. Those we look up to for inspiration, the real talent, probably wouldn’t have benefited from theory. Playing is innate for them, and theory is built around their innovativeness. For the rest of us mere mortals, anything that shortens the path to achieving our goals, whether it’s theory or praying to the divine, has to be good.

  8. #307

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    That's false. I don't know where you people's motivation comes from to spout all this disinformation. Parker from his own mouth saying he became the player he was from studying theory a crap load.


  9. #308

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith
    That's false. I don't know where you people's motivation comes from to spout all this disinformation. Parker from his own mouth saying he became the player he was from studying theory a crap load.

    You're like a dog with a bone

  10. #309

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    Quote Originally Posted by Victor Saumarez
    Are they mutually exclusive? I guess the OP is asking whether theory helps more than the old pre-college method of learning. I think it depends on who’s participating in it.
    This question is profoundly connected the nature of the music you are playing. Jazz learned on the bandstand through listening and playing apprenticeship produced highly sophisticated dance music that eventually became a self conscious type of art music.

    Bop kind of looks both ways, at a cross roads. Hard bop was an attempt to reconnect.

    Jazz school mostly produces jazz school music, and these days jazz and jazz education are almost the same thing.

    I'm not sure you can learn school music without school. The value of that music tends to be in the measurables though - unfamiliar harmony, complex rhythmic ideas and so on - so in some ways its easier

    If you want to learn the older style of jazz you have to immerse yourself in its sound, life and culture. Its value is in the unmeasurables, the swing, the blues, the sound of its players; and the community. That's a lot harder in many ways.

  11. #310

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith
    That's false. I don't know where you people's motivation comes from to spout all this disinformation. Parker from his own mouth saying he became the player he was from studying theory a crap load.

    POST OF THE DAY!!!!!!

    Well, JS,
    You did it again. What more do the naysayers need to hear when it comes from the mouth of one of Jazz's greatest innovators and musicians? And, it wasn't just Bird but Coltrane, Dexter, Miles, Chet, McCoy, etc., etc. This nonsense being purported by the ear/feel players is just that . . . nonsense. I think much of this babble comes from players that came from a Rock background who bullshitted their way through that cacophonous genre . . . I've never heard this jingo from guys who morphed from R@B/Funk/Soul into Jazz. Musicianship is a combination of talent, theory, practice, and experience on the bandstand. And, without the talent, you'll be a good workman but will never say anything profound in music.
    Marinero

    Here's Dexter with a song that's been played to death a billion times by the best and worst. Listen as the complete package unfolds. RIP, brother. You've helped me through some tough times in life.
    M


  12. #311

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    Appreciate that. I hadn't heard him speak before.

    He mentions that he studied from books. He doesn't mention music theory specifically.

    When I started out, taught by a player from that era, the books were about building technique and reading skills and not what now seems to be termed "theory".

    It would be interesting to know which books he was referring to.

    Is that information available?

  13. #312

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    ^ No prob. Yes, he doesn't specify theory. But I think we can rule out the possibility that he both had absolutely no access to theory materials and even if that were the case, he was too inept to draw theoretical conclusions from written music. The audio interview is probably the most accurate and telling of Parker's study, but try searching for more written info.

    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero
    POST OF THE DAY!!!!!!

    Well, JS,
    You did it again. What more do the naysayers need to hear when it comes from the mouth of one of Jazz's greatest innovators and musicians? And, it wasn't just Bird but Coltrane, Dexter, Miles, Chet, McCoy, etc., etc. This nonsense being purported by the ear/feel players is just that . . . nonsense. I think much of this babble comes from players that came from a Rock background who bullshitted their way through that cacophonous genre . . . I've never heard this jingo from guys who morphed from R@B/Funk/Soul into Jazz. Musicianship is a combination of talent, theory, practice, and experience on the bandstand. And, without the talent, you'll be a good workman but will never say anything profound in music.
    Marinero
    Thx. Yes, it's absolutely true that success requires the creativity and talent but also the study and structural understanding. My teacher, Tony Monaco, said exactly what you said, that someone can be ok with gut bucket playing but that it ultimately takes the deeper understanding to say more creative and profound stuff. I don't fully understand why people choose to push the bs so heavily. They will no doubt try to spin Parker himself saying he played tremendously because of his academic study.

  14. #313

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller
    You're like a dog with a bone

  15. #314

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith
    ^ No prob. Yes, he doesn't specify theory. But I think we can rule out the possibility that he both had absolutely no access to theory materials and even if that were the case, he was too inept to draw theoretical conclusions from written music. The audio interview is probably the most accurate and telling of Parker's study, but try searching for more written info.

    Thx. Yes, it's absolutely true that success requires the creativity and talent but also the study and structural understanding. My teacher, Tony Monaco, said exactly what you said, that someone can be ok with gut bucket playing but that it ultimately takes the deeper understanding to say more creative and profound stuff. I don't fully understand why people choose to push the bs so heavily. They will no doubt try to spin Parker himself saying he played tremendously because of his academic study.
    This gets back to the original problem of what we mean by "theory".

    If CP's books were anything like the books I used in the 60s, they were from the classical or band tradition with very little jazz. I'd guess that was even more true in the 30's when he was coming up.

    So, he may have been working on his reading (I recall that he was a big band musician for dancing early in his career, so he read and we know the great things he wrote) and chops. At that point, we can presume he was able to draw "theoretical conclusions" at least at the level of hearing the concepts and being able to play them and maybe at a more linguistic level too. The only bit of info I've heard on that was that Dizzy was the theoretician among the original boppers. Dizzy had attended an Institute for two years, studying music.

    EDIT: I just googled it and found a reference to the Klose book, which apparently was old even then. I didn't find the exact date. I also read that CP studied out of a Paganini book and maybe other violin books. I studied guitar with a big band guitarist back then and he had me play out of a Paganini book and clarinet books. This was to build reading and chops.

    The books I recall in the 60s had lots of notes and no discussion of theory as we now understand it.

    The only theory I can recall being taught by the big band teacher (Sid Margolis) was the cycle of 5ths, which was offered as a way of understanding how the chords moved in songs that followed it. He may have explained how chords are built from thirds, but I can't recall that. I do remember learning what he called "runs" which were either arpeggios or scales.

    Later on, when I studied Chuck Wayne's approach, I learned about a chord for every note, arps and scales, but I don't recall lessons on how to put it all together. I knew I was supposed to solo over ever chord in the reharm, but I don't recall any details of scale or arp choices against chords.

    So, this is all anecdotal, but it does raise a question about how musicians in the 30s or 40s utilized theory.
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 09-26-2022 at 02:47 PM.

  16. #315

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith
    ^ No prob. Yes, he doesn't specify theory. But I think we can rule out the possibility that he both had absolutely no access to theory materials and even if that were the case, he was too inept to draw theoretical conclusions from written music.

    Thx. Yes, it's absolutely true that success requires the creativity and talent but also the study and structural understanding. My teacher, Tony Monaco, said exactly what you said, that someone can be ok with gut bucket playing but that it ultimately takes the deeper understanding to say more creative and profound stuff. I don't fully understand why people choose to push the bs so heavily. They will no doubt try to spin Parker himself saying he played tremendously because of his academic study.
    Hi, J,
    So: does Parker have to literally spell it out in words? "Ah, yes . . . I studied theory at ABC College/University." People usually don't talk like that unless they're trying to impress you with their pedigree or knowledge. I know what Parker said in that video and so did Desmond. It was clear to me because that's how most musicians talked in his generation unlike the Macaws in the Y2k. Not to beat a dead horse, but the only place you'll hear these discussions that appear to be "anti-theory/formal knowledge" is in a guitar forum. Pianists and horn players don't talk that nonsense because that's what it is . . . nonsense. So, I've beaten my horse and I don't want it to die so . . . if you believe you can play Jazz guitar at a high level without any theoretical knowledge . . . I wish you luck in your journey.
    Marinero

  17. #316

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    For what it's worth, there used to be a player/teacher on the All About Jazz forums named Ed Byrne. He's a trombonist who had experience playing with a number of big names, including Chet Baker and Stan Getz. I remember that he specifically singled those two players out as guys who played primarily by ear.

    But... he also said that when they brought in younger players who had new tunes (think Chick Corea on the "Captain Marvel" record), they really struggled playing by ear through these tunes that didn't follow the old Great American Songbook harmonies. And it's not like Getz or Baker were burners to begin with -- both guys that played very melodically, stuck close to the melody, etc.

    (As a side note, it is a crime that those forums were not archived. It had more working professionals than any other jazz forum, and tons of great commentary from Byrne, Vic Juris, Pat Martino, etc. Absolute waste)

    I think there is this misconception that someone with "great ears" can hear anything and everything, that they can essentially dictate any music on the spot. But that's not entirely true -- your ears are going to be limited by how well you can conceptualize things. You have to hold something in your working memory, and you can only hold so much (as anyone who has tried to memorize a random string of digits has found out). There's two ways you can chunk music: you can memorize it as a discrete melody (ie, it's singable) or you can break it down into smaller conceptual chunks. Those chunks can be lots of different things: scales, patterns, intervals, chords, etc. The bigger your conceptual toolbox is, the easier it is to break down.

    Mozart had astounding ears from a very young age, transcribed Allegri's "Miserere" after hearing it once. But I suspect that if you played him Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, etc, he would find it much harder to hear because there's so much conceptually he wouldn't understand.

    A guy like Charlie Parker had great ears AND had a very solid theoretical background AND relentlessly practiced technique (particularly when he was younger) AND had countless hours of on the job training on the bandstand. He also had astounding recall, according to his contemporaries -- this is another "secret" ofpeople with amazing ears that isn't widely discussed.

    I have met and played with a LOT of musicians, and I have never met anyone who was playing/gigging/hanging in the 21st century who was getting by on ears alone. You want to get gigs in a place like NYC or any other big town with a good scene, you better have it all together: chops, ears, reading, theory, time, repertoire, everything. The only exception I can maybe think of is the trad jazz scene, where the repertoire is strictly pre-bebop, maybe then you can get away with ears only. But I'm honestly not too clued in on that scene, so I could be wrong.

    You think you're going to get by on ears alone, when any high-level jam session can call stuff like "Inner Urge"? C'mon...

  18. #317

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller
    I dunno after 12+ pages I’m starting to appreciate Jimmy’s sense of humour.
    Too bad he's not joking.

  19. #318

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    Even players who are very well versed in theory don't think about theory on the bandstand. If you ask, what were you thinking at a certain point, the answer, invariably, is they don't know.

    I've read Nettles and Graf, but, on the bandstand, if I know the tune, nothing like that will cross my mind. If it does and I give in to it, the solo will get worse. So, I don't know if I'm an ear player or not.

    Of course, thorough knowledge of everything theoretical is no guarantee you can sound good when you solo. You still need big ears for that.

    My own experience is that specific ideas that I think could be called theoretically based have been enormously helpful. But, it's always one thing, one sound, at a time. And, more in comping than soloing (although I understand that others have used theory for soloing to great advantage).

  20. #319

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    Quote Originally Posted by dasein

    You want to get gigs in a place like NYC or any other big town with a good scene, you better have it all together: chops, ears, reading, theory, time, repertoire, everything.

    on the gig i can hear your time, chops, ear, repertoire, and even reading skills. how do i hear your theory? how am i to tell how you came to your conclusions?
    Last edited by djg; 09-26-2022 at 06:14 PM.

  21. #320

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    it does raise a question about how musicians in the 30s or 40s utilized theory.
    They either learned it in books or materials that we don't have record of, figured it out, passed it around verbally, or a combination. If you listen to Bird or open the omnibook, it's all scales and arps so I don't see what the question is of how he or they utilized it when he said it came from his studies. Seems pretty self evident.

  22. #321

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    Three passages from essays by Nat Hentoff:


    Yet dutifully he continued going to school, finally making an agreement with his mother that he’d try a year of majoring in music theory at Talladega College in Alabama. “It didn’t take,” Teddy Wilson laughs in recollection. “After a taste of the night music of Detroit and Chicago, I thought that people who wanted to be doctors or teachers of schoolteachers didn’t know what they were missing.”


    Coltrane, who read theory as well as biographies of the creative (Van Gogh, for instance), might have been pleased to hear that. But at night, on the stand, there would be no abiding satisfaction for him in what he had done in the past. “You just keep going,” he told me once. “You keep trying to get right down to the crux.”


    For some years thereafter Taylor was sometimes criticized because there were discernible elements of European music — Bartok, for instance — in his own work. In recent years, as Taylor has developed further, there are fewer such traces, but his comment at the time is sharply illustrative of his approach to his art as a black musician. In 1958 Taylor told me: “I am not afraid of European influences. The point is to use them — as Ellington did — as part of my life as an American Negro. Some people say I’m atonal. It depends, for one thing, on your definition of the term. In any case, it depends on the musicians I come up with. Basically, it’s not important whether a certain chord happens to fit some student’s definition of atonality. A man like Thelonious Monk, for example, is concerned with growing and enriching his musical conception, and what he does comes as a living idea out of his life’s experience, not from a theory. It may or may not turn out to be atonal. Similarly, as Miles Davis’s European technical facility becomes sparser, his comment from the Negro folk tradition becomes more incisive. He’s been an important innovator in form in jazz, but again not out of theory, hut out of what he hears and lives.”




    From Nat Hentoff, Jazz Is. New York: Random House, 1976
    The Mainstream Generations, 93.
    Express trane, 215.
    Cecil Taylor’s Spirit-Music, 228.


  23. #322

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    Quote Originally Posted by djg
    on the gig i can hear your time, chops, ear, repertoire, and even reading skills. how do i hear your theory? how am i to tell how you came to your conclusions?
    I like the direction... your response to dasein's comment's about having all your skills together,(which I agree with).
    Anyway...personally I hear theory all the time. What one plays and the order or progression of what they're playing when playing gigs... has very established common practice theoretical references. Those theoretical references can also be memorized.... but that limits the possibilities or layers that could be going on... or coming.

    Again ...personally that my point of using theory as part of my performance skills....when performing jazz gigs.... being able to recognize what's being played... with what has been played... and what could be played and the possible musical or theoretical organizations. And just like I can usually hear and be in the moment LOL.... I use theory to help be ahead of the moment, the mental process of using the above with possible choices with musical organization of where we can go. Really helps with being ahead of the moment as well as in the moment and have past references. That theory in action approach... LOL

    Generally this is more for comping or supporting soloist or who's ever covering head. It's also a useful tool to help me learn different players approach at gigs... how their ears work when I know they're not into or are just not that hip on theory.

    I guess one would actually need to be aware and understand theory.... jazz theory... to really be able to even make those choices.

    A simple example... I recently used contiguous II V's as an example for something...? I don't remember, but there are standard theoretically organized patterns as to how they can be played depending on the tune or tonal target with references.... basically just more layers of musical organization than going to Maj . or Min.

    Most jazz players use Chord Patterns.... the more one uses them and the more complicated they become...the more it helps to understand Theory. I know many on this forum like the BH approach or the Dominant / Tonic approach... that's a theoretical approach. It works well, and the better player you are... the better it works.

    But there is more LOL. that also works well.

  24. #323

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    I've never posted here--I'm not a jazz player, though I've been listening for a lot of decades. But I did spend quite a while teaching another skill-set, college-level writing, that faces similar challenges and has similar tensions between "theory" and practice. I've also watched the progress of my own guitar playing over sixty years as I moved from folky material to swing/standards to sitting in with some bop-leaning players (as supernumerary rhythm backup, not a soloist). As a result, I'm quite aware of the push-pull of "theory" and playing. Be patient--I'll get around to it.

    What I noticed in my teaching days was the distinction between "knowing that" and "knowing how." The former is a collection of observations and taxonomic structures and codified conventions--the stuff that gets collected in textbooks--while the latter is whatever-it-is that generates the production and shaping of the text itself. Knowing how to produce an essay (or a magazine feature or a forum post) is the product of practice and feedback. It is iterative--"try, fail, try again, fail better"--and while the process can be coached, the crucial part of it takes place inside the practitioner. Teachers and textbook writers attempt to capture as much of those processes as can be observed and organized as they can, but all of that is still "knowing that."

    "Theory," in my experience as a learner, is any collection of "knowing that" material that is drawn from the observation of practice. A college classmate kindly clued me into the very basics of the kinds of chords and keys that operated in the folk music we were playing in 1962. It helped me when I wanted to figure out a new song for which I didn't have a chart. Later I learned about the "Nashville numbering" approach, which helped me understand harmonic structures without reference to specific keys. So those were "theory" in the folky world. And that fed into my understanding of the various ways that standards are structured, so that I learned how to identify the 2-5-1 or 6-2-5 movements I had always been able to hear but not necessarily implement without a chart. (BTW, I don't read music, though I can follow a Real Book chart. Another theory-adjacent skill.)

    I could add any number of other bits of "theory" that helped me play better--with others and as a sofa-based noodler. Some just named and explained things I could already hear. Others expanded what I could hear or showed me the connections among and between things I could already do. And some--workshops on shell chords, inversions, and fingering sequences--seriously expanded my understanding of the harmonic structures I could hear but not talk about and showed me how to produce them. Now when a country-centric player asks me about the chords I use, I can connect what I do (pretty basic swing-player grips) to the cowboy chords he's used to. It's not very systematic, but then, whether it's playing guitar or writing or doing literary analysis, I've always favored the toolbox approach. I don't have matched sets of anything, but I do have something that works for most situations.

    The fully competent participants can now return to the fully-informed conversation. I read the whole thread last night with fascination and admiration and found myself needing to blurt out something.
    Last edited by RLetson; 09-27-2022 at 11:08 PM.

  25. #324

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    Hey Rletson... that was a very nice post to read, thanks.

    Very different understandings... but very interesting.

  26. #325

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    Quote Originally Posted by RLetson
    I've never posted here--I'm not a jazz player, though I've been listening for a lot of decades. But I did spend quite a while teaching another skill-set, college-level writing, that faces similar challenges and has similar tensions between "theory" and practice. I've also watched the progress of my own guitar playing over sixty years as I moved from folky material to swing/standards to sitting in with some bop-leaning players (as supernumerary rhythm backup, not a soloist). As a result, I'm quite aware of the push-pull of "theory" and playing. Be patient--I'll get around to it.

    What I noticed in my teaching days was the distinction between "knowing that" and "knowing how." The former is a collection of observations and taxonomic structures and codified conventions--the stuff that gets collected in textbooks--while the latter is whatever-it-is that generates the production and shaping of the text itself. Knowing how to produce an essay (or a magazine feature or a forum post) is the product of practice and feedback. It is iterative--"try, fail, try again, fail better"--and while the process can be coached, the crucial part of it takes place inside the practitioner. Teachers and textbook writers attempt to capture as much of those processes as can be observed and organized as they can, but all of that is still "knowing that."

    "Theory," in my experience as a learner, is any collection of "knowing that" material that is drawn from the observation of practice. A college classmate kindly clued me into the very basics of the kinds of chords and keys that operated in the folk music we were playing in 1962. It helped me when I wanted to figure out a new song for which I didn't have a chart. Later I learned about the "Nashville numbering" approach, which helped me understand harmonic structures without reference to specific keys. So those were "theory" in the folky world. And that fed into my understanding of the various ways that standards are structured, so that I learned how to identify the 2-5-1 or 6-2-5 movements I had always been able to hear but not necessarily implement without a chart. (BTW, I don't read music, though I can follow a Real Book chart. Another theory-adjacent skill.)

    I could add any number of other bits of "theory" that helped me play better--with others and as a sofa-based noodler. Some just named and explained things I could already hear. Others expanded what I could hear or showed me the connections among and between things I could already do. And some--workshops on shell chords, inversions, and fingering sequences--seriously expanded my understanding of the harmonic structures I could hear but not talk about and showed me how to produce them. Now when a country-centric player asks me about the chords I use, I can connect what I do (pretty basic swing-player grips) to the cowboy chords he's used to. It's not very systematic, but then, whether it's playing guitar or writing or doing literary analysis, I've always favored the toolbox approach. I don't have matched sets of anything, but I do have something that works for most situations.

    The fully competent participants can now return to the fully-informed conversation. I read the whole thread last night with fascination and admiration and found myself needing to blurt out something.
    Well, R,
    There is a distinct parity between the creation of quality Fiction and Poetry and quality Jazz and Classical Music. And, why not add Visual Art to the discussion? However, a practitioner may achieve technical competence in the genres but be incapable of saying anything interesting or profound. A well-written piece of Non-Fiction . . . a representative painting/drawing . . . a musical piece played correctly is NOT Art. It is Craft. . . Artistry is genetic. It cannot be given to you by a close friend, ordered online through the internet, or found abandoned on the side of a deserted road. This is a very difficult mindset for serious people to accept when they love something very much but realize, one day, will never be loved in return. The most talented people I've known in my life all knew, at an early age, that they possessed special talents and they were apparent from the beginning to themselves and others. They've included musicians, athletes, visual artists, billiard players, photographers, and writers. And, those with the gift have always known that they are different than their peers. This is not a pleasant thought, for some, but does need to be factored into one's goals in life.
    Marinero