The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #351

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller View Post
    i would be the last person to use myself as an example of anything in this discussion of how people should learn lol. Yeah I know a ton of theory. Cool, so what?

    While I value self learning I also actually really value formal music education. I think people get a lot from it they don’t realise. But what people don’t realise is what they learn is not found on a syllabus and is actually hard to quantify. It’s certainly not found in theory. I know as much theory as anyone and I didn’t learn it at school. But trying to be too individualist about this process of learning this music is my greatest regret.

    So school in its own limited and flawed way to some extent allows a space for community. My master’s dissertation was partly about this btw: i interviewed several jazz guitar students and they all said that the school community was the most important thing, and the chance to play with masters and peers alike. They didn’t mention theory such as chord scales unless it was in a negative light by and large (usually the more traditional, bop oriented players)

    And that doesn’t have anything to do with this ‘discussion’ to which my answer remains ‘I know many wonderful players, some know a ton of theory, some don’t, but they have all listened closely and actively to this music and have spent time working out the music of their favourite musicians by ear.’ It’s simple as that, and tells a story about what everyone should probably focus on first and foremost

    And yet here we are on post God knows what.

    Some people seem to find that threatening somehow, probably because they feel they’ve wasted time and money or something and maybe mistake my argument for saying that learning theory is detrimental which it is not. But neither is the kind of theory knowledge I possess a prerequisite for playing your ass off and getting the gig. I just find it interesting cos I’m a nerd, and I’m ok with that.
    "Some people seem to find that threatening somehow, probably because they feel they’ve wasted time and money or something and maybe mistake my argument for saying that learning theory is detrimental which it is not. But neither is the kind of theory knowledge I possess a prerequisite for playing your ass off and getting the gig." Christian Miller

    Hi, C,
    I've never wasted a dime or lost a moment in formal musical education despite the fact that I was gigging for years without that knowledge. And, for the record, my academic degrees(similar to yours) are NOT in music. However, it was that very hard-earned musical knowledge that allowed me to move to higher levels of performance(and writing: arranging). And, the only reason that I've spent this time discussing this issue is that there are, undoubtedly, people on this Forum who may benefit from these types of discussions where an issue is fully fleshed-out with only the bones remaining. Knowledge is power.
    Marinero

    P.S. I don't know if you saw an earlier question I posed to you about guitar cables, but I purchased the Mogami Gold cables last week and was very impressed with the certifiable difference in sound clarity, drive. Highly recommended for the extreme fetishist.
    M

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  3. #352

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero View Post
    "Some people seem to find that threatening somehow, probably because they feel they’ve wasted time and money or something and maybe mistake my argument for saying that learning theory is detrimental which it is not. But neither is the kind of theory knowledge I possess a prerequisite for playing your ass off and getting the gig." Christian Miller

    Hi, C,
    I've never wasted a dime or lost a moment in formal musical education despite the fact that I was gigging for years without that knowledge. And, for the record, my academic degrees(similar to yours) are NOT in music. However, it was that very hard-earned musical knowledge that allowed me to move to higher levels of performance(and writing: arranging). And, the only reason that I've spent this time discussing this issue is that there are, undoubtedly, people on this Forum who may benefit from these types of discussions where an issue is fully fleshed-out with only the bones remaining. Knowledge is power.
    Marinero

    P.S. I don't know if you saw an earlier question I posed to you about guitar cables, but I purchased the Mogami Gold cables last week and was very impressed with the certifiable difference in sound clarity, drive. Highly recommended for the extreme fetishist.
    M
    Knowledge is not a specific enough term. The chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi differentiated between explicit (ie intellectual) and implicit (ie intuitive, embodied) knowledge.

    what we do when we practice is build up the latter, and it’s the latter that gets the gig… whether that gig is a jazz gig, a rhythm guitar gig in a funk band or a high pressure reading date. Doesn’t matter.

    players who consciously use theory or come up with ideas, such as chord scales will then practice to convert the former into the latter. But it still has to be the latter to be usable on a gig.

    But one of the fastest ways of building one’s implicit knowledge is to learn music by ear. It’s less of a conscious process that way, and very holistic and works on a number of levels.

    That’s how they teach music all over the world. Indian music has as much theory as any tradition, but it is still taught aurally, for example. And in jazz, it has a long history.

    (Western classical musicians otoh learn to audiate from scores.)

    obvious really.

  4. #353

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    "Indian music has as much theory as any tradition, but it is still taught aurally, for example." ChristianMiller

    Hi, C,
    So, for our readers, do you consider Indian Music on par with Western Classical Music?
    Marinero

  5. #354

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero View Post
    "Indian music has as much theory as any tradition, but it is still taught aurally, for example." ChristianMiller

    Hi, C,
    So, for our readers, do you consider Indian Music on par with Western Classical Music?
    Marinero
    On a par in terms of theory?

    Well yes, take one example.

    rhythms in Western music are hilariously, childishly basic compared to those found in Indian classical music. In fact Carnatic rhythmic theory is so flexible and complete it is used to teach advanced Western classical contemporary musicians and jazz players to cope with the more rhythmically complex music these players are likely to come across, because it’s simply better suited for that purpose and more advanced than anything in the Western tradition.

  6. #355

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    A singular asset of Western Classical Music (and therefore jazz) is the development of an equally tempered 12 tone system which opens the possibility to modulate anywhere. No other music does that.

    Indian music is very complex melodically as well as it uses a much finer division of the octave than our seven tone scales which is probably a use of higher overtones. But it does not modulate but stays modal.

  7. #356

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller View Post
    On a par in terms of theory?

    Well yes, take one example.

    rhythms in Western music are hilariously, childishly basic compared to those found in Indian classical music. In fact Carnatic rhythmic theory is so flexible and complete it is used to teach advanced Western classical contemporary musicians and jazz players to cope with the more rhythmically complex music these players are likely to come across, because it’s simply better suited for that purpose and more advanced than anything in the Western tradition.
    Up to a point, I would agree with this. However, post-WW2 there are a fair few composers in Western music who started using tuplets and nested tuplets, some of which are really quite complex. This could be traced back to Chopin in some instances, and then there is Stravinsky, before you get to Stockhausen, Ferneyhough etc. I guess the fact that it's mostly notated makes this complexity more apparent. I guess in free jazz and free improv you could draw parallels with Indian music in terms of complexity, as well.

    However, I do not want to get into a discussion about which is the more complex, and I certainly do not want to get into value judgements about this, a slight hint of which I detected in Marinero's question.

  8. #357

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    Wow. I feel like the undergrad who has stumbled into the room where the advanced seminar is being held. Nevertheless, like any bolshy sophomore, I have a couple of thoughts.

    To my, um, ear, the crux of this conversation is, "What is the relationship between producing music and being able to describe the product?" Or, from another angle and much more simply, "How does one learn to make music?" And the inevitable "What is the contribution of theoretical knowledge to the generation of music?"

    I spent some years writing for music magazines, especially Acoustic Guitar, which allowed me to hang out with a lot of guitarists. I got to know quite a few Hawaiian slack-key players, and in the course of writing a book on the subject (still not quite complete after 21 years), I got stories of how they learned to play. Before, say, 1960, slack key was pretty much entirely an aural tradition, and in Hawaiian culture it tended to be passed along within families. On top of that, it was rarely taught directly and explicitly--kids were allowed to watch and expected to imitate, but few of my informants were sat down and instructed. (There's even a Hawaiian saying that amounts to "be quiet and pay attention.") Keola Beamer has this anecdote: he was working on a tune when his grandfather came along, listened, took the guitar away and played a passage the right way, returned the guitar, and walked out of the room.

    The older players I talked to had no conventional musical training and rarely used standard terminology--though there are certainly traditional names for tunings. It's not uncommon for players of Keola's generation to have had conventional musical training--Dennis Kamakahi had a degree (and his father was a horn player in the Royal Hawaiian Band), though his introduction to playing came via his extended family. There's a certain similiarity to the way gypsy players acquired technique and repertory--by observation and absorption--and also to the way the folk model morphed into the conventional formal-training model. (I think of the Ferre brothers' conservatory training, sitting atop the more traditional ways of their uncles.)

    My long-winded point is that even for the schooled players, minimally-theorized practice (listening and imitating) came first. And I have found this pattern in other traditions, including some of the ancestors of modern jazz. Some players in dance bands were schooled, some were not--though I suspect the pressure to produce and perform increasingly sophisticated arrangements made it tougher for non-sight-readers to keep a job. And bebop was largely devised by players who combined big ears, bandstand experience, and some understanding of the "theoretical" machinery of harmony and such.

  9. #358

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    Quote Originally Posted by James W View Post
    Up to a point, I would agree with this. However, post-WW2 there are a fair few composers in Western music who started using tuplets and nested tuplets, some of which are really quite complex. This could be traced back to Chopin in some instances, and then there is Stravinsky, before you get to Stockhausen, Ferneyhough etc.
    And that’s exactly the sort of thing that many conservatoires now use Carnatic music theory to train musicians to do. Want to play groupings of 5 on a 13/7 tuplet? Konnakol gives you a practical step by step road map. It doesn’t matter whether you play Carnatic music or not; it’s useful for ALL rhythm in ALL music. I teach it to students and I don’t know much about Karnatic rhythm or music at all.



    This makes it a very powerful musical technology and it has been widely adopted by music schools the world over.

    As far as Karnatic music itself it has a specific and dizzying complexity. It’s a language like any other.


    (i do enjoy the fact that in Carnatic music audiences apparently Konnakol performances are considered a bit nerdy.)

  10. #359

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bop Head View Post
    A singular asset of Western Classical Music (and therefore jazz) is the development of an equally tempered 12 tone system which opens the possibility to modulate anywhere. No other music does that.

    Indian music is very complex melodically as well as it uses a much finer division of the octave than our seven tone scales which is probably a use of higher overtones. But it does not modulate but stays modal.
    Thats true - but imagine how basic your perception of pitch becomes? And imagine the nuance Western Music has forsaken in the understanding of pitch in exchange for this area of development. (Although early musicians I think have good perception for temperaments.)

    For example quarter tones in Middle Eastern msuic. I work with musicians who can instantly tell the difference between Egyptian pitching of quarter tones (very weird apparently) compared to that in other ME music.

    I was thrilled when I started hearing the quarter tones in Maquamat like Rast and Bayyati not as out of tune tempered notes but notes in their own right. And that’s baby steps. but it was a real ‘watcher of the skies’ moment for me if you know what I mean.

    It made me really realise the levels of complexity that my ears maybe completely deaf to. I could also say the same about jazz rhythm, for years….

  11. #360

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bop Head View Post
    A singular asset of Western Classical Music (and therefore jazz) is the development of an equally tempered 12 tone system which opens the possibility to modulate anywhere. No other music does that.

    Indian music is very complex melodically as well as it uses a much finer division of the octave than our seven tone scales which is probably a use of higher overtones. But it does not modulate but stays modal.
    Another aspect is that the freedom to modulate was exercised at the expense of the beauty of individual harmonies and eventually Western music accepted the inherent compromised ugliness of equal temperament which rather depressingly we become accustomed to. (Although I actually think jazz harmony is reliant on the properties of ET, particularly the well tuned fifth, oh hai George Russell)

    If you’ve ever spent a week playing a Lute in a historic temperament and gone back to the modern guitar… owww!!!

  12. #361

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller View Post
    And that’s exactly the sort of thing that many conservatoires now use Carnatic music theory to train musicians to do. Want to play groupings of 5 on a 13/7 tuplet? Konnakol gives you a practical step by step road map. It doesn’t matter whether you play Carnatic music or not; it’s useful for ALL rhythm in ALL music. I teach it to students and I don’t know much about Karnatic rhythm or music at all.

    This makes it a very powerful musical technology and it has been widely adopted by music schools the world over.

    As far as Karnatic music itself it has a specific and dizzying complexity. It’s a language like any other.

    (i do enjoy the fact that in Carnatic music audiences apparently Konnakol performances are considered a bit nerdy.)
    Yes - you're right. I probably should've made more of a distinction between didactic method and actual repertoire. Western classical music pedagogy for sure is heavily weighted towards harmony and counterpoint.

    Some day I will get my hands on John McLaughlin's DVD on konnokol.

  13. #362

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    Quote Originally Posted by James W View Post
    Yes - you're right. I probably should've made more of a distinction between didactic method and actual repertoire. Western classical music pedagogy for sure is heavily weighted towards harmony and counterpoint.

    Some day I will get my hands on John McLaughlin's DVD on konnokol.
    Why not start with Asaf Sirkis’s videos on YouTube? They are free and he’s a great teacher.

    I need to get back into Konnakol. It’s been a while since I’ve worked on it earnest.

  14. #363

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller View Post
    Another aspect is that the freedom to modulate was exercised at the expense of the beauty of individual harmonies and eventually Western music accepted the inherent compromised ugliness of equal temperament which rather depressingly we become accustomed to. (Although I actually think jazz harmony is reliant on the properties of ET, particularly the well tuned fifth, oh hai George Russell)

    If you’ve ever spent a week playing a Lute in a historic temperament and gone back to the modern guitar… owww!!!
    Off on a tangent here again here, but there is spectralist music, some of which I really love, and that it is often derived from the harmonic series - including microtones.

    The beauty of individual harmonies IMO is restored in pieces like this:


  15. #364

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    Quote Originally Posted by James W View Post
    Off on a tangent here again here, but there is spectralist music, some of which I really love, and that it is often derived from the harmonic series - including microtones.

    The beauty of individual harmonies IMO is restored in pieces like this:

    You ever play this one?

  16. #365

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller View Post
    Why not start with Asaf Sirkis’s videos on YouTube? They are free and he’s a great teacher.

    I need to get back into Konnakol. It’s been a while since I’ve worked on it earnest.
    Great idea.

    Incidentally, I'm going to a gig of his on Thursday in Birmingham.

  17. #366

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller View Post
    You ever play this one?
    I hadn't heard that piece until now (though I was aware of its existence) so thanks for reminding me of it.

    Vampyr! reminded me of this, which is also pretty cool IMO:


  18. #367

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller View Post
    Never forget the objective is to be a better player.

    Is that all there is? What about expressing oneself fully and uniquely, or being a player others will remember? As Philip Larkin wrote of Pee Wee Russell: "No one familiar with the characteristic excitement of his solos, their lurid, snuffling, asthmatic voicelessness, notes leant on till they split, and sudden passionate intensities, could deny the uniqueness of his contribution to jazz."

  19. #368

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    Quote Originally Posted by Litterick View Post

    Is that all there is? What about expressing oneself fully and uniquely, or being a player others will remember? As Philip Larkin wrote of Pee Wee Russell: "No one familiar with the characteristic excitement of his solos, their lurid, snuffling, asthmatic voicelessness, notes leant on till they split, and sudden passionate intensities, could deny the uniqueness of his contribution to jazz."
    Let’s start with playing the gig… (for me that is)
    Last edited by Christian Miller; 10-02-2022 at 04:34 PM.

  20. #369

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    Quote Originally Posted by RLetson View Post
    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.

  21. #370

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    Consider truly great, propulsive comping ... is there theory that will help you develop that?

    And I'm not talking about which chords/notes, rather I'm talking about when you play them and with what attack.

    A quick story. I attended a master class with a Brazilian great, Marcus Tardelli, some years back. Incredible player with deep knowledge and enormous ears.

    The other students played these terrific chord melodies and Marcus listened and made suggestions.

    When it was my turn, I played a ii V I in Cmaj in a basic samba rhythm. The other students were sort of snickering. Then I asked, "why don't I sound like a Brazilian". The snickering stopped -- everybody wanted to know that. His answer, condensed and paraphrased, was to play along with recordings. Apologies to Marcus if I have not remembered this correctly. But, on second thought, what else could it have been?

    However you employ theory (or not) for note and chord choice, eventually, you're going to have to play that stuff in good rhythm. Anybody have ideas on that? And I'm not talking about wild subdivisions of the beat. This is going to come down to eighths, maybe sixteenths, and triplets. Or so it seems to me.

    My impression is that the great comping guitarists have tremendous vocabularies of rhythmic ideas and the harmonic choices that allow them.
    The only way I can imagine developing this ability is to listen, transcribe (or lift) comping and get to some transcendent point where you can feel it.

    What have I missed?

  22. #371

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    Peter Bernstein once pointed out to a masterclass I attended that perhaps it’s a good idea to spend as much time practicing comping as soloing. It’s an obvious thing, but until it’s pointed out….

  23. #372

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller View Post
    Peter Bernstein once pointed out to a masterclass I attended that perhaps it’s a good idea to spend as much time practicing comping as soloing. It’s an obvious thing, but until it’s pointed out….
    There’s an old lesson video somewhere on youtube by Herb Ellis, where he says learn to comp well, and you’ll always get gigs, even if you’re not a great soloist. The other way round, you probably won’t get so many.

  24. #373

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero View Post
    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
    Yeah, like Parker would have been able to sit dutifully through 8 semesters at music college. Are you guys for real? It's like saying Arthur Rimbaud had to get his neat little degree from the Sorbonne before he could write poetry. They're quite similar figures. To me it's more like those guys change the face of art, and 100 academics make their careers commenting their work for the next 50 years . Of course Parker absorbed every bit of information from every source he could get and understood what he was doing. But he did it organically by all accounts, it wasn't from "studying theory" like a curriculum, where for some it's become like an end in itself. As I remember from Stanley Crouch's book he received formal classes from a white school teacher (classical); spent hours listening to bands backstage while underaged; then performing; learned from sitting with other musicians. Crouch mentions a guitarist in New York who had him learn the sound/function of each note in a new chord/scale/arpeggio before incorporating it in his playing, who was important in his development. Which qualifies as studying theory.

    At the risk of sounding provocative I find understanding theory to be pretty trivial. How many functioning adults, doing complex jobs, do you see complaining about how hard music theory is? It's 1/10th at most in the difficulty of learning jazz. I'm not anti-theory. I just find it's the easiest part, and that there more rewarding approaches to it than the CST cannon. I don't think it's really theory that's confounding learners. By the way, Biréli Lagrène doesn't know any theory (or worship the metronome, or tap his foot on two and four - two more heresies). Hardly a noodler from a rock background. It's hard not to mention that how he learned was very much by oral transmission - same or similar process as in the original American jazz community. It's probably not a recommended exclusive approach for those of us who didn't grow up with such a background, but neglect that and you neglect a very large aspect of how jazz came about, IMO. Hal Galper does say "all music is played by ear".

  25. #374

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    I just have to slide this in before we hear the "But..but...Bireli is a savant!" excuse.

    I think Bireli is someone who came into this world with a proclivity towards sound (musical talent), landed a very fortunate birth for a musician, and most importantly, did a ton of work starting at an early age. Like Mozart. Or Julian Lage.

    These guys aren't Rain-Men who can look at a pile of matchsticks and pull the correct count out of the air. They earned their abilities and honed them in countless hours of playing with others in basements and performing on stage.

    I think the savant thing is a put-down and a cop-out. Like it's magic or something. We're looking at talent, hard work, and a huge amount of experience that very few are able to achieve.

    (actually... I wouldn't be surprised if these guys can do the matchstick trick... :-)

  26. #375

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    Quote Originally Posted by m_d View Post
    Yeah, like Parker would have been able to sit dutifully through 8 semesters at music college. Are you guys for real?
    Are you guys for real? It's more important to further your narrative than to take Parker at his word? Lol seriously? Parker said he developed his playing from his academic work! Implied that included putting in the time too with the musicianship. I don't think theory was post hoc like you guys are trying to spin it. They obviously all knew it and used it if you analyze the structures of their music. Again, if you look at Bird's lines it's all theory used correctly..