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A wonderful brain in a cruel world

rudjarl

Senile Member. Scandinavian Ambassadour of CaSLM
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657
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Løten, Norway
The human brain is a remarkable instrument. Capable of storing terabyte upon terabyte of memory consuming memories. And what a filing system. You just think of what information you want to retrieve and out pops the stuff on a huge 3D (nay 4D (at least)) wide-screen just behind your frontal lobes. And sound if may be, in a natural environ-friendly 7.1 multi sonic rendering system that makes Steven Jobs go mental in envy. The human brain stores heap loads of information so effective that the share scale and speed of it is nothing less than impressive.

I'm a software engineer. I can whip up functions and algorithms that will make you puke from the memory of loooong boring days at school (not bypassing the fact you poor sods could have encountered a teacher ranting rather enthusiastically about integral parts of products and the derivation thereof). I'm fairly decent in foreign languages having mastered English and German and (to an immensely lesser degree) French, in addition to my native wonderful Norwegian and the inferior Norwegian dialects of Swedish and Danish (OK, just kidding). There is hardly any extent at all, to which our human brains can not cope. And cope well. For each and every memory you have, you have quite a few more embedded alongside.

We may not all appreciate a well formulated formula, or a sentence fully conformed with the Oxford Advanced Dictionary. Still, in each and every one of us there is roughly the same amount of memories. We have all the same wonderful filing system for the hard drive. And the same benefit of how that lovely piece of instrument works. At times we even interconnect and share (upload/download) information at unrecorded speeds.

Why then, oh why have my filing system gone amiss? I know I know the scales, member chords, parallel keys and whatever. I know I know, because I know. I know I know them not only in theory, but I also know I knew them on the saxophone. And now it seems I know I know what I once knew, but no longer know how to. 20 years ago, I could play decent enough in most keys. But now it seems I can only do C and D (and parallel (and Dorian)), and that's about it.

It has left me in a rather gross predicament. I have actually had to resort to practising. Now what do you give me? Me, practising?. Unheard of it is. It should not have to be this way. If I know I know, I should not have to practise what I know. It was actually Chris (Chris98) who made me realise that life's a bitch and that's just the way it is in one of his comments on my playing.

I have ordered a copy of Taming The Saxophone form Pete, persuaded the 'nahh, you know it so just forget it' feeling to move elsewhere, blowing long notes on the horn and it's all Chris' fault.

Sigh... What a cruel world.
 
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kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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I have a modicum of sympathy, having come to this late in life, practice is synonymous with learning and building the dexterity I need.

But your problems are self miposed, I feel. Things stop working when they're not used - or don't work as well.....

And imagine being Steven Hawkin....
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
I know how to drive a car but it would take a lot of practice to become a racing driver (and a reduction in age by about 35 years!).Martin
Rubbish, well the age bit.;}
Moss. S. is whistling round Silverstone this weekend. Sadly, was at Goodwood on the day of his big one and have spun on the same corner. Wotcha mean, should have been t'other way round?:confused:

Might it be the difference between skill and art. You can teach most people to wang round a circuit at a very respectable pace, as proved by the numerous motorsport events of all forms, each weekend. What I couldn't achieve, let alone teach was that final ability to sense what the vehicle is doing at and over the limit and then correct it just enough to be really fast. Very similar to the numerous musicians we appreciate and the few we hold in awe. Are 'skill', which can be taught and 'art', which can't, the relevant words?
 

Chris98

Senior Member
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1,076
I see I’m in trouble again, and there I was trying to keep a low profile! Mr Thomas will be having words no doubt, I is beggin’ your pardon guvna, I meant no ‘arm.

Hello Rune,

Please accept my humble apologies.

Have you ever read ‘Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah’ by Richard Bach? It’s an interesting book, I have found it helpful in prompting me to look at life a little sideways on occasion.

In the book there is a scene in which the two characters go into a hardware store and while one of them is getting some bits and pieces the other picks up a guitar from the sale section and proceeds to play it beautifully. The other guy turns to the one playing and says he didn’t know he could play. In explanation as to how he was able to play the guitar he said:

…“Just give up all your inhibitions and all your beliefs that you can’t play. Touch the thing as though it was part of your life, which it is in some alternative lifetime. Know that it’s all right for you to play it well, and let your nonconcious self take over your fingers and play.”…
The other guy responds:
…“That’s a hard thing, Don, to let go of knowing that I can’t play a guitar.”

“Then it will be a hard thing for you to play the guitar. It will take years of practice before you give yourself permission to do it right, before your self-conscious mind tells you that you have suffered enough to have earned the right to play well.”…
Maybe Rune, you do still know all you knew it’s just you’ve forgotten to trust that you still know it.

My gut feeling is that the more I can relax the grip of my conscious mind on the music and the mechanics of playing, the more beautifully I’ll be able to play, the sweeter the tone, and the greater the inspiration and confidence of playing the ‘right’ notes with delicacy and emotion. But loosening that grip, that’s a hard thing…

Perhaps enough practice is like a sedative to the conscious mind and allows the non-conscious mind to step forth.

Warmest best wishes and enjoy your copy of Taming The Saxophone, it's a resource I've only just scratched the surface of and I'm really pleased to have it.

Chris
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
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Rugby UK
My gut feeling is that the more I can relax the grip of my conscious mind on the music and the mechanics of playing, the more beautifully I’ll be able to play, the sweeter the tone, and the greater the inspiration and confidence of playing the ‘right’ notes with delicacy and emotion. But loosening that grip, that’s a hard thing…


Chris
Chris, I'm sure your right, I find I play my best stuff when I'm "out of the zone" so to speak. If my mind has wandered, I seem to play with so much more fluency and freedom, unfortunately I can go too far, and not realise where I am within the piece..... Doh!
 
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rudjarl

rudjarl

Senile Member. Scandinavian Ambassadour of CaSLM
Messages
657
Location
Løten, Norway
Hi Chris,
never fear, I hold nothing against people who tell me the truth (even though my ego could do very well turning a blind eye to it every now and then) :thankyou:

Afraid that book has eluded my attention. Then again anything readable that is not purely fiction seem to have eluded me. I'm a big fan of Terry Pratchett though, but there aren't much useful in real life in them books. Not if the favourite character is Rincewind the whiz(z)ard anyway.

......................................

I know it is self imposed Kev, but let me dwell in my little puddle of self pity a little while longer :)))
 
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rudjarl

rudjarl

Senile Member. Scandinavian Ambassadour of CaSLM
Messages
657
Location
Løten, Norway
I know how to drive a car but it would take a lot of practice to become a racing driver (and a reduction in age by about 35 years!).

Martin
Hehehe, might be so Martin. But I ain't planning on driving no racing car. I want to play my sax the way I used to :mrcool

Understanding is one thing.

Doing is another!
Alas, that's the catch isn't it?... sigh :shocked:

Might it be the difference between skill and art.....
..... Very similar to the numerous musicians we appreciate and the few we hold in awe. Are 'skill', which can be taught and 'art', which can't, the relevant words?
Well Bill, skill says: rubbish, and art says: nope, still rubbish. That means I better go practising... sigh... :(
 

DaveW

Member
Messages
163
Location
Stockport, Cheshire
“Then it will be a hard thing for you to play the guitar. It will take years of practice before you give yourself permission to do it right, before your self-conscious mind tells you that you have suffered enough to have earned the right to play well.”…
Guess Kev's sig sums that up.

Man is limited by his fears, not his imagination.
 

visionari1

Senior Member
Messages
1,606
Location
Out in the Countryside of Nelson NZ
..........I find I play my best stuff when I'm "out of the zone" so to speak. If my mind has wandered, I seem to play with so much more fluency and freedom, ............
I call this in the Zone, and believe you still need to learn it before you can forget it.....all the great masters put the time in practising, and then they play from the Zone......

The great sportsmen talk about getting into the zone where time stands still and everything is effortless.

It's not an easy state to get into and hopefully this can also be practised.

Cheers & Ciao
Jimu:mrcool

What about all the zen monks after lifetimes if detachment.... in their own mental zone....could they play like Charlie Parker, In there mind maybe , but not to our ears!

Surely the journey is where all the learning is taking place and to appreciate the experience!
 
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rudjarl

rudjarl

Senile Member. Scandinavian Ambassadour of CaSLM
Messages
657
Location
Løten, Norway
... I find I play my best stuff when I'm "out of the zone" so to speak. If my mind has wandered, I seem to play with so much more fluency and freedom, unfortunately I can go too far, and not realise where I am within the piece..... Doh!
...all the great masters put the time in practising, and then they play from the Zone......
It's not an easy state to get into and hopefully this can also be practised.
OK, I'm going to be serious for a few seconds. (But please do not tell anybody as it could put a nasty stain on my reputation as a cool, carefree, happy go lucky, trivial sod.)

The old masters playing are like magic. It seems like they invented stuff (all the bits and bobs we perceive as parts of jazz) as they went along. And of cause they did. It is widely debated whether they improvised at a whim, but I don't think so. Oh, make no mistake about it, they improvised. But that was back stage rehearsing. Working out licks and cool stuff to be used on stage. Please, bear with me before you start sharpening your knives in anger.

And what did they practise? Well, melodies for one. People were no different at the turn of the century (not this one, the one before) than what we are today. If you could recognise a tune, or it went straight to the ear and you could hum to it, then all the better. They practised licks and invented (stole from colleges, nicked from folk music, borrowed from other genres...) more cool licks (riffs for guitarists) that would fit any standard pattern of chords. And finally they practised playing the horn. Making all those exciting effects we all are trying to mimic today. (Some of us with less success than others... arghh)

If you listen to early recordings of the great jazz masters, you can hear that everything is arranged to and fro. The band knows exactly what to do and when to do it. There is nothing spontaneous about that. But then there is a part with a solo. An improvisation out of this world. Innovative, catchy and awesome. They definitely were 'in the zone'. (Just don't analyse their playing because it's made up of: knowing the tune, knowing licks and knowing the horn. And what do I mean by licks? Well, read next line.)

It stands to reason that they (the early masters) found out about the three (most common) ways of making (I say make because a solo is made even if you make it as you are playing it) a solo. Fiddle with the melody, play over chords or play over scale. (Now you can sharpen your knives.)

From all of this it follows that an improvisation is not quite as improvised as we would like to think. It is merely a question of piecing together a) the tune, b) scales and licks, c)handling the horn. None of which (alas) you can possibly do without practising all three. But all three must be familiar if you want to be in the zone (the happy place where you've forgot all what you've practised and are just playing).
 
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visionari1

Senior Member
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1,606
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Out in the Countryside of Nelson NZ
From all of this it follows that an improvisation is not quite as improvised as we would like to think. It is merely a question of piecing together a) the tune, b) scales and licks, c)handling the horn. None of which (alas) you can possibly do without practising all three. But all three must be familiar if you want to be in the zone (the happy place where you've forgot all what you've practised and are just playing).
Couldn't agree more Rudjarl, all the foundations are built on practise etc as you say.... and in improvisation there is the moment to moment influence of how your feeling, the vibe of the moment the undefinable magic that is feeding off of pure creativity.
Oh yes it must come from somewhere, from practise, from being open and ready and in my experience (not that I'm in any way a master) can not be made or forced to happen. The zone is the gift of serious woodsheding.

We all have probably been to a late night Jazz gig when after the second set of the night things just take off. Everything falls into place and everyone can sense it.... This is the zone & it's what most musicians dream of and not many experience.

So get back to woodshedding!
That's square 1

Cheers
Jimu
 
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rudjarl

rudjarl

Senile Member. Scandinavian Ambassadour of CaSLM
Messages
657
Location
Løten, Norway
So get back to woodshedding!
That's square 1

Cheers
Jimu
Ahh, the wonderful duality of the British tongue :)
I was ready to say that as a Norwegian, I know nothing of wood unless you put a fire in front of it. But to be on the safe side I had a little chat with Webster. A quite enlightening affair I must admit.

Now why it's called woodshedding, when in fact most of us are shedding grass, as Bamboo is, is perhaps all together a different debate. :)))
 

visionari1

Senior Member
Messages
1,606
Location
Out in the Countryside of Nelson NZ
Ahh, the wonderful duality of the British tongue :)

But to be on the safe side I had a little chat with Webster. A quite enlightening affair I must admit.

:)))
Have a chat with Ben Webster too he will be more on song, .... So to speak with the job at hand!

I picked up the "Woodsheding" term from reading SOTW posts, don't use it in personal speach.... I prefer your use of keeping the practise room warm!

Huh British Tongue, I have a mix of Scottish, English & Kiwi & love all versions of the Brit Tongue

Ciao
Jimu
 
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