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Do we really need theory?

jbtsax

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#1
Everything you need to know is there in the music itself, the theory and written music are only the way we talk about it. So it's not just "by ear" players who should learn to play by listening, everybody should do it, and it should be a substantial element of learning.
I don't disagree that learning to play by listening is important, but it must be accompanied with musical literacy and an understanding of what one is playing by rote learning.

All great "art" whether it is music, visual art, dance, or poetry can be experienced and as human beings we can be moved by those experiences. However to fully understand that art it needs to be broken down into its elements and undergo some type of analysis. The basic elements of music are Melody, Harmony, Rhythm, Dynamics, Timbre, Texture, and Form. To me it is that understanding that completes the experience of being moved by a piece of music or a particular performance. With that understanding I can communicate with others about my experience and I can look for those same elements in other pieces I hear for the first time.
 

U CAN CALL ME AL

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#2
@jbtsax said " However to fullyunderstand that art it needs to be broken down into its elements and undergo some type of analysis. "

In my acknowledged ignorance.

Sorry to disagree but in visiting some of the great art galeries I have heard some ot the most pretentious drivel, utter Jakson Pollocks spoken when the painter probably just enjoyed the physicality of applying paint to surface. At wine tasting sessions complete dribble spoken concerning aromas palate etc when it was just a very good year. In literature people must find hidden meanings to the tale when it was probably just a ripping yarn. In most circumstances these theoretical analyses usually do nothing more than satisfy the inflated egos of the theoretical pontiffs, if they can find someone, the more the merrier, gullible enough to listen

Theorise, analyse if you must. Me, I rather just let it all wash over and just enjoy the sounds,sights, tastes etc. this world has to offer.
 
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Bernie

Little chickety boom, one stick, you dig?
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#3
However to fully understand that art it needs to be broken down into its elements and undergo some type of analysis. The basic elements of music are Melody, Harmony, Rhythm, Dynamics, Timbre, Texture, and Form. To me it is that understanding that completes the experience of being moved by a piece of music or a particular performance.
jbtsax said:
Nice job playing over the changes Bernie. You seem to have a good grasp and feel of the harmony.
I hadn't carried out any form of analysis, didn't know the names of the notes I was playing or the chords.
 

U CAN CALL ME AL

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#4
I hadn't carried out any form of analysis, didn't know the names of the notes I was playing or the chords.
@Bernie I'm sure you won't take offence, that is just like a child splashing paint on paper or banging a drum completely happy in ignorance (is bliss 'tis folly to be wise).
The other evening while jamming I was in the moment then played a line instead of letting it go because I thought it sounded pretty cool I tried to recall it analyse it on the spot and the rest of the solo fell apart.
 

Bernie

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#5
@Bernie I'm sure you won't take offence, that is just like a child splashing paint on paper or banging a drum completely happy in ignorance (is bliss 'tis folly to be wise).
Just want to get clear what you are saying Al: do you mean my playing was at the same level as a child banging a drum?
 

aldevis

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#9
Sorry to disagree but in visiting some of the great art galleries I have heard some ot the most pretentious drivel, utter Jakson Pollocks spoken when the painter probably just enjoyed the physicality of applying paint to surface. At wine tasting sessions complete dribble spoken concerning aromas palate etc when it was just a very good year. In literature people must find hidden meanings to the tale when it was probably just a ripping yarn. In most circumstances these theoretical analyses usually do nothing more than satisfy the inflated egos of the theoretical pontiffs, if they can find someone, the more the merrier, gullible enough to listen
Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.
Years ago I went to a huge Rauschenberg exhibition that he set up himself.
The path of a lifetime of works took him to white paintings.
Not easy to do something so simple when he had a full palette of techniques.

Similarly it is not easy to appreciate Pollock's spots, or Rothko. "My son of 8 could do that" drives me insane.
Music and art are not about showing off ability, but mastering techniques helps expressing what the artist wants to express.

For example there is a way to write for horns that I cannot grasp yet. I am slowly reading about the technique behind and hopefully I will have one more thing to use.

This said, there are a lot of fraudsters in all arts, and lot of bovinefaecalists among critics.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1X3mz-k0oE
 
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Bernie

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#10
@Bernie I hadn't missed the point at all and enjoyed your playing which was in no way childish.
I sometimes wish for a child-like simplicity which allows liberation and enjoyment of the moment, whether listening or playing, without preconception.
Yeah, thanks Al. I also like to at least try to do and see things with a child-like simplicity. Where I thought you might have missed my point was when you said "ignorance". To be clear, I'm not offended by you using that word, but the point I was making was that one is not (necessarily) ignorant of anything important if one deals only with the music (the sound), and not with the associated theory. But you may well have understood that.
 

jbtsax

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#13
jbtsax said:
Nice job playing over the changes Bernie. You seem to have a good grasp and feel of the harmony.
I hadn't carried out any form of analysis, didn't know the names of the notes I was playing or the chords.
My compliment was sincere and meant that I heard you playing well within the chord changes. Please don't take offense at my next observation that there were a lot of interesting and colorful notes harmonically "suggested" in those changes that you didn't play in your improvisation. I like to think of improvising as painting your own picture with music. In my experience, the more I learn about jazz chords and the scales, the more colors I have on my pallet to use to express myself. As one listens to the great players in this idiom, it becomes clear that they use the complete pallet to express themselves. Perhaps the greatest of them do it simply by ear, but for the rest of us "mortals" we can learn from them by transcribing and analyzing what they are playing melodically and harmonically.

Folk music of most nationalities is relatively simple harmonically compared to jazz. To improvise in that genre generally involves the use of the I, IV, V, and perhaps the ii, iii, and vi chords which all use the notes of the major scale of the tonic. It is a little more complex in minor keys, but the idea is the same. Taking the skills that are successful in playing and improvising folk music into playing jazz will only take you so far.
 

Bernie

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#14
Please don't take offense at my next observation that there were a lot of interesting and colorful notes harmonically "suggested" in those changes that you didn't play in your improvisation.
Oh no, not offended by that at all, in fact I was going to say very much the same thing myself, I'm well aware that that is a limitation of my approach. But on the other hand, I've only been playing for a relatively short time, my expectation is that I will gradually acquire a little more "sophistication" as time passes. Meanwhile, I'm happy enough with the way things are. I have no ambitions to be a "professional", and I think it's rather a pity that that is so widely seen as the ultimate goal.
 

Jeanette

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#17
Got to agree in the short time I've been playing and the players i associate with have no intention of improving to be a professional, it's more a love affair (just ask my Mrs)
My hubby too.

I'd love to play as a pro but I'm not that talented so don't even think about it :(

Jx
 

Bernie

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#18
Folk music of most nationalities is relatively simple harmonically compared to jazz. To improvise in that genre generally involves the use of the I, IV, V, and perhaps the ii, iii, and vi chords which all use the notes of the major scale of the tonic. It is a little more complex in minor keys, but the idea is the same.
The Irish fiddle music I play is essentially modal, not chord-based, and it uses non-standard intonation, somewhat akin to "blue notes". Very little improvisation is involved, it's more what you'd call "ornamentation". It probably seems simpler than it really is, to an outsider. All that modal/intonation stuff is generally learned by ear, incidentally.

Taking the skills that are successful in playing and improvising folk music into playing jazz will only take you so far.
By what standard?
 

Nick Wyver

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#20
By what standard?
By the standards of what is regarded as normal in jazz, presumably.
Was a jazz musician.

I think the point is that, being a tad simplistic about it, improvisation in a folk context is largely diatonic whereas in jazz many weird and wonderful chords and their extensions are used extensively. Practising playing diatonically does not give you much insight in how to deal with them.