The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    Found on reddit today; all in good fun, but I think this sums up a particular recurrent discussion pretty well

    Theory vs. playing by ear-gcytejxmlpi91-png
    Attached Images Attached Images Theory vs. playing by ear-gcytejxmlpi91-jpg 

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Lol gold. Does that mean if I believe in a hybrid approach my iq is either 120 or 80? :P

  4. #3

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    Replace the x-axis with relative time having played the guitar, the result is similar.
    There seems to be a big period in the middle where the theory is taken seriously,
    with those who just aren't ready for it before, those who have past beyond after.

    Theory vs. playing by ear-mth-jpg

  5. #4

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    Theory vs. playing by ear

    You need both, it's not one or the other.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1 View Post
    Theory vs. playing by ear


    You need both, it's not one or the other.
    Maybe you’re just in the middle of the graph? ;-)

  7. #6

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    I looked at the graph. I think a guitarist is far more likely to be an ear player than a saxophonist.

  8. #7

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    It's like the classic quote attributed to Charlie Parker, or whoever we are elevating to godlike status at the moment so we can feel better about the lack of work we've put in.

    "Forget that shit and play."

    Of course, everyone forgets the first part of the quote, which is something like "First, master your instrument."

    Guitar players in particular can be incredibly annoying about this. You don't just get to declare yourself an "ear player." Being a true ear player requires some WORK.
    Last edited by mr. beaumont; 09-08-2022 at 10:07 AM.

  9. #8

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    Unless you're deaf, of course

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    It's like the classic quote attributed to Charlie Parker, or whoever we are elevating to godlike status at the moment so we can feel better about the lack of work we've put in.

    "Forget that shit and play."

    Of course, everyone forgets the first part of the quote, which is something like "First, master your instrument."

    Guitar players in particular can be incredibly annoying about this. You don't just get to declare yourself an "ear player." Being a true ear player requires some WORK.
    Parker, a master of his instrument.


  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2bornot2bop View Post
    Parker, a master of his instrument.

    Interesting to hear Parker playing outside of the bebop context.

  12. #11

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    We propose that at the heart of an improviser’s expertise (and indeed, of day-to-day living) lies the spontaneous creation of novel forms of agentive goal-directedness. Both drawing on, and extending, enactive theory, we suggest that such improvisatory ability is grounded in a form of “higher-level inner sense-making” that operates in the moment over a rich realm of perceptual relations and sensory-motor schemes that have been established in prior practice. By this, summing up, we supplant Dreyfus’s idea of the ego-less absorbed expert, as applied to improvisation, by that of an mindful (i.e. present in the moment) improviser enacting spontaneous expressions of herself.”
    ————-
    The enactive approach is focused on the purposeful actions and reciprocal dynamic interactions with the environment by bringing together the mind/brain, mind/body, and body/environment.”

  13. #12

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    Forgetting that crap and just playing (after you have mastered your instrument and learned a bunch of theory) is all well and good if you only play 1 note at a time and are able to run stuff freely. However try playing Hammond where you need a sub bass line, an upper bass line, chords, and melody.. and it all has to work and be seamless. Pretty sure you won't get very far just winging it with your ear and without theory.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith View Post
    Forgetting that crap and just playing (after you have mastered your instrument and learned a bunch of theory) is all well and good if you only play 1 note at a time and are able to run stuff freely. However try playing Hammond where you need a sub bass line, an upper bass line, chords, and melody.. and it all has to work and be seamless. Pretty sure you won't get very far just winging it with your ear and without theory.
    There are solo guitarists who play incredibly difficult things, bass notes, chords and a solo at the same time ... like Martin Taylor.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith View Post
    Forgetting that crap and just playing (after you have mastered your instrument and learned a bunch of theory) is all well and good if you only play 1 note at a time and are able to run stuff freely. However try playing Hammond where you need a sub bass line, an upper bass line, chords, and melody.. and it all has to work and be seamless. Pretty sure you won't get very far just winging it with your ear and without theory.
    Organists are a breed apart for sure

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris View Post
    There are solo guitarists who play incredibly difficult things, bass notes, chords and a solo at the same time ... like Martin Taylor.
    Very true...but organ is nuts. It's 4 limbs doing different things at the same time. It's like drums with harmony/melody/bass.

    I have mad respect for organ players. And pedal steel guitarists!

  17. #16

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    Honestly, you never hear these discussions among Classical guitarists/musicians. It seems to be a preoccupation, only, among Pop and Jazz guitarists. Jazz horn players, pianists, and string bass players understand/know the importance of theory and practice. I believe it is a consequence of the long-standing use of the guitar as a folk instrument.
    Marinero

  18. #17

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    Classical guitarists don't need to know much theory unless they compose.

    But even then... I wonder

    For example, the whole gallant schemata thing in the classical improvisation world is a case in point. People identify these schemata - Romanescas, Cycles, Laments. Montes and so on with their specific contrapuntal niceties - and it feels rather clever and cute. Aha, here in bar 22-25 in the Two Part Invention no4 of JS Bach, he uses an elegant contrapuntal variant of the monte. Here in Leporellos Aria, Mozart uses a classic 5-6 ascending Moti e Basso.

    Then you go and listen to popular songs and realise songwriters use these things all the time without knowing what they are. Here, Oasis use the Gallant variation of the Romanesca with the stepwise descending bass and the leaping melody. Abba here use the variant with the stepwise melody and the leaping bass. Here, Giorgio Moroder uses the ascending progression that is sometimes called the Monte Romanesca. Here Destiny's Child use the lament bass. Here Adele uses the diatonic lament bass with the classic melodic pairing, albeit with a jazz/blues twist. And so on. The infamous 'Axis' progression of a thousand songs is itself a variation of the 18th century Romanesca.

    I don't think they read Gjerdingen or Sanguinteti. They absorbed them by cultural osmosis; they were always out there.

    So schemata theory mere categorisation. Who cares? (The main difference in the case of pop is actually formal anyway - modern popular music repeats more, and the 18th century musicians liked longer structures, but that's another story.)

    What is theory anyway? Names, mostly. Manouche guitar players call the progression

    I I7 IV IVm I 'Christophe'

    So that's schemata theory there.

    I'm certain Mozart knew what they were called.... actually I'm not at all certain because most of the language we use comes from the theorist Reipl who was writing for amateurs. In fact, it might be that the primary use of labels is for education. Mozart taught the rule of the octave and so on, but the emphasis on his lesson was in music making, writing a minuet for instnace. I find it hard to call this sort of thing theory at all, because its use is, well, practical.

    So, the thing is, you need to know the language of music. If you know what a past participle is, or what verb conjugation that's cool but it's not something a native speaker will pay any attention to when actually using language. Language is best learned by children via hearing the language spoken. Pedagogy is much less important.

    (written grammar is perhaps more exacting than spoken; we obviously see this in 18th century music with prohibitions on parallels and so on.)
    Last edited by Christian Miller; 09-09-2022 at 12:18 PM.

  19. #18

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    I remember learning 7th chord inversions for jazz school helped me learn classical pieces faster. The chords were all familiar then. So much easier to remember the sequences.
    Before that, memorized the damn finger works one by one.. always afraid of memory-holes.

  20. #19

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    "Classical guitarists don't need to know much theory unless they compose." Christian Miller

    Hi, C,
    You always have thoughtful responses which make these discussions informative and, for me, interesting. So, I can tell you from experience I've lived in both worlds: firstly, as pre-teen/teenage guitarist, who got a smattering of lessons from a great teacher(Jazz) and, then, thought-- in my youthful "wisdom" that lessons were a waste of time. And, at 15, started sax, flute, and clarinet and after a smattering of lessons and, again, thought they were a waste of time. At 21, I studied Jazz improvisation(sax/flute), theory, and arranging/composing at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago for several years and to accomplish this goal returned to ground zero for a time.
    After a ten-year forced hiatus from performance, I returned to study CG with a renowned Chicago/International artist. My first paid gig was at 12 and the last 2 years ago(solo CG). The reason I mention these bio facts is that they allowed me to see both sides of the coin and without a doubt, I made the greatest progress in my playing/arranging under formal study. I believe good ears are both a blessing and a curse and it was that very reason I stopped formal lessons early on in my life which, as I look back, cost me valuable time and energy. Unless you are a savant, there is no substitute for formal training.
    Secondly, as a direct response to your above quote: no quality CG can go beyond an elementary level of performance without a complete understanding of a score. When I first look at a score, I want to know/play the: melody/harmony and bass. Most beginning/intermediate CG's, especially in arpeggiated pieces, fail to understand the differences and play these pieces as a virtual blob with no separation of the voices or nuances of tempo and articulation. These can only be seen with a thorough understanding of the music in totality. A good example is Carcassi's "Andantino-- Opus 60 No. 3" which is a study in arpeggios for late beginner/intermediate students. Yet, it is also a charming performance piece for professionals and a crowd-pleaser. However, without attention to the simple bass lines accenting the 4th/1st beat and the melody which falls on the 2nd/3rd beat and implicit rubato, it is lost in definition and intent and becomes a pleasant blob of sounds. So, theory IS imperative to a student who wishes to play at a professional level and if undertaken seriously, will move you faster than the self-learner. Here's Edson Lopes playing the above piece in a wonderful performance. Watch his thumb playing/articulating the important bass lines.
    Marinero

    https://youtu.be/tYZl_W6ZOYM


  21. #20

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    I think for many players this can resemble their journey and relationship with theory. Once theory helps you understand things, and you practice, play and hear them, you may no longer need it. But it also has a lot to do with the style one plays or composes, for many players and styles, theory is a big part of it, or even drives their music.

    Two people can stand on the same spot, but there is a difference if one has been around the block and one hasn't! Personally i consider everything one learns to be a benefit!

  22. #21

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    My observations show that a musician who knows the theory very well does not always have to be a good jazz musician.
    However, I have met many very good jazz musicians with excellent hearing who were not interested in theory.
    I guess it's just about musical talent.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Miller View Post
    Then you go and listen to popular songs and realise songwriters use these things all the time without knowing what they are. Here, Oasis use the Gallant variation of the Romanesca with the stepwise descending bass and the leaping melody. Abba here use the variant with the stepwise melody and the leaping bass. Here, Giorgio Moroder uses the ascending progression that is sometimes called the Monte Romanesca. Here Destiny's Child use the lament bass. Here Adele uses the diatonic lament bass with the classic melodic pairing, albeit with a jazz/blues twist. And so on. The infamous 'Axis' progression of a thousand songs is itself a variation of the 18th century Romanesca. I don't think they read Gjerdingen or Sanguinteti. They absorbed them by cultural osmosis; they were always out there.
    I agree with your point here. If a musician can learn vocab and devices and express themselves by wrote then job done. Also, they have succeeded in one of the most important skills for a musician of becoming fluent aurally. However, they can still benefit from formal study. On the other hand, if a musician learns a bunch of theory, not job done lol. Must learn how to apply the theory and must develop the aural ability as well.

    I'm certain Mozart knew what they were called.... actually I'm not at all certain because most of the language we use comes from the theorist Reipl who was writing for amateurs. In fact, it might be that the primary use of labels is for education. Mozart taught the rule of the octave and so on, but the emphasis on his lesson was in music making, writing a minuet for instnace. I find it hard to call this sort of thing theory at all, because its use is, well, practical.
    Disagree with the definition of theory here. My idea is that theory is any structure that you use outside of or to aid your aural ability in music making. I also disagree with the assumption that greats mostly communicated through the language of music and without structure.

    So, the thing is, you need to know the language of music. If you know what a past participle is, or what verb conjugation that's cool but it's not something a native speaker will pay any attention to when actually using language. Language is best learned by children via hearing the language spoken.
    Agree with the idea that developing the aural ability is essential. If a musician can get that hardwired in early in life great, if not he/she will still have to learn it later in life. Disagree with touting this as the way to learn music to the exclusion of structured training. Only a small minority can learn solely through the language of music, so why would it be the rule? Music is a 2nd language to the vast majority of students, not a primary language. Therefore they will succeed the most with practical application of theory and aural development, not only aural - same as learning a 2nd language. I have found that learning the structure of music actually benefits my ear immensely. Because now I can immediately recognize all the devices used in the music.

    Pedagogy is much less important.
    Here is another misnomer. The fact that most pedagogy falls short in its practical application doesn't mean that theoretical study isn't useful. It just means that the musician needs to follow through further with the study and application. Take your rock example of Oasis. You probably won't find that in books.. you would have to study privately with a musician who knows their stuff in that application of rock. Or take my example studying with Tony. There's no pedagogy for some of the stuff he shows me - the theory has to be taught at a deeper level than pedagogy allows. The theory is still extremely beneficial or essential.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith View Post
    I agree with your point here. If a musician can learn vocab and devices and express themselves by wrote then job done. However, they can still benefit from formal study. On the other hand, if a musician learns a bunch of theory, not job done lol. Must learn how to apply the theory and must develop the aural ability as well.

    Disagree with the definition of theory here. My idea is that theory is any structure that you use outside of or to aid your aural ability in music making. I also disagree with the assumption that greats mostly communicated through the language of music and without structure.
    If I try to play anything based on theory it invariably sounds shit. I can use theory to teach myself new sounds sometimes.

    Agree with the idea that developing the aural ability is essential. If a musician can get that hardwired in early in life great, if not he/she will still have to learn it later in life. Disagree with touting this as the way to learn music to the exclusion of structured training. Only a small minority can learn solely through the language of music, so why would it be the rule? The vast majority of musicians will succeed the most with practical application of theory and aural development.

    Here is another misnomer. The fact that most pedagogy falls short in its practical application doesn't mean that theoretical study is detrimental. It just means that the musician needs to follow through further with the study and application. Take your rock example of Oasis. You probably won't find that in books.. you would have to study privately with a musician who knows their stuff in that application of rock. Or take my example studying with Tony. There's no pedagogy for some of the stuff he shows me - the theory has to be taught at a deeper level than pedagogy allows. The theory is still extremely beneficial or essential.
    I don’t think pedagogy or theory does any harm, but I also have very good reason to believe that it’s unnecessary. Finding a teacher is a good idea for most, but pedagogy is only part of that. Playing and hanging out with someone really good at music is perhaps the most important aspect in fact. Not all learning is conscious.

    For me it’s a moot point. I know a lot of theory. But I’m also sophisticated enough to understand that a lot of it is essentially stamp collecting.

    One problem is it’s actually quite hard to get the sheer exposure to jazz to learn it intuitively in the way that it is for rock and pop music… or actually increasingly we have to teach rock and pop because kids don’t get much exposure to guitar music of any kind.

    A focus on theory is kind of a morbid symptom of a musical culture in decline.

  25. #24

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    Theory isn't unnecessary because in general, musicians don't learn music as a primary language, they learn it as a 2nd language. This is learned through theoretical and practical/aural study, not one or the other.

    Yes, trying to play only theoretically does sound bad, you need the aural ability. (Or only aural ability if you're Mozart - which noone is.)

    Also yes, learning the language, getting that wired in, and developing the ability to learn from exposure is a priority.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith View Post
    Theory isn't unnecessary because in general, musicians don't learn music as a primary language, they learn it as a 2nd language. This is learned through theoretical and practical/aural study, not one or the other.

    Yes, trying to play only theoretically does sound bad, you need the aural ability. (Or only aural ability if you're Mozart - which noone is.)

    Also yes, learning the language, getting that wired in, and developing the ability to learn from exposure is a priority.
    Well I know a few players who learned jazz by ear. None of them are Mozart. Just because we didn’t learn that way doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. It might be a lot more common if mass market jazz edu materials didn’t exist to offer their help to the aspiring player.

    I’ll put it this way. Say I’m teaching functional jazz chord progressions and how standards operate. Do I for example, talk about the common progressions that may be found in the GASB, or I instead advise the student to learn as many GASB tunes as possible?

    The latter is I think, essential, and leads to the same knowledge as the former only more embodied as well a obviously a useful repertoire of tunes. It also takes a long time. The student may not in fact bloody do it.

    The former can be discussed in a lesson or two. It can lead to a stamp collector mindset which gives them the impression they know something Terribly Important when in fact they still don’t know any actual tunes to play on gigs, but may be useful in focussing the students attention to useful aspects while doing the second thing.

    But the former is obviously not a replacement for the latter.

    In the wider context… Everyone who can play learned by ear. Some also know theory. Ergo theory is unnecessary.

    OTOH I think theory may be somewhat emergent from the way the human brain works. Schemata theory in the wider sense that it is used psychology. may as well use the standard names everyone else does.

    it doesn’t take long to teach that stuff anyway.