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If you don't listen too it...

Chris

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How can you play it???

Pretty straight forward question>:) As sax players we pop up in all sorts of different genres of music. But, if we don't listen to a certain genre then how can we expect to play it??? Now I'm not talking guys that have been gigging for years, just average player trying to improve.

So do you listen to enough of what you want to play???

Chris..
 

BigMartin

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Tricky question. How much is enough? I don't practice enough, rehearse enough, gig enough, learn enough songs, transcribe enough, learn enough licks, listen enough..., etc. Mainly because I don't find the time. but whether I've got the balance between those things right is very hard to say. I suspect that, at my stage of development, more of any of those things would be highly beneficial.
 

Jamesmac

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..and also transcribe whole or partial solos too?
Only if your interested in learning the jazz language. And you want to feel that your part of the club. That's why straight ahead jazz is a dying Art. Too much inbreeding. :)
 

Chris

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For now I'll just go with listening and not just to Jazz. If you want to play 'Ska' or 'Classical' sax could you do it without first listening to good examples of sax players playing in that genre of music, or could you 'busk' and get away with it??
Surely listening is as bigger part of learning as playing is, plus you don't need a sax with you..

If you happen to like jazz, but your playlist only contains 'Ella' and 'Frank', how you going to improvise like a jazz sax player??
The other side of the coin would be if your playlist only had 'Desmond' and 'Hodges' how you going to play Blues like 'Gene Ammons' for example.
 

Jamesmac

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The short answer is best to do what young creative players are doing today. ( and myself BTW) They take what they want from what they hear and discard the rest. Nothing more boring than somebody who is obsessed with one style of music, and blocks out the rest.:)
 

Nick Wyver

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With music that was written before the age of recording you only have the dots to go on, plus what contemporary writers said about performances. So there is room for interpretation of, say, the works of Bach - and plenty of argument too. However, because of this limitation (lack of recording) there has evolved a tradition of putting pretty much everything on paper in order to reduce the scope for a performer's fanciful interpretations and allow the composer's intentions to shine through. Once you have recordings of the composer's own interpretation then you know exactly what he intended. It is of course still up to the performer whether or not he follows those intentions.
So, in order to play music written before the age of recording you could argue that all you need are the dots and anybody else's interpretation is only their idea of what the music should sound like. That approach may not get you very far in music colleges or orchestral gigs because there is a "tradition" of how this stuff should be played and woe betide you if you depart from it.
A lot of modern music and folk music from the past has a much smaller reliance on notation. The tunes and the styles are learned aurally. It doesn't need to be written down but, if it is, it is often in a much reduced form and much of the performance information is left out. You are not going to get very far relying on it. You have to hear it. That's the point really. Written music is always going to be a poor substitute for the amount of information that you can get through your ears and getting that information has never been easier than it is now.
 

altissimo

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I tend to think that transcriptions of jazz improvisations are a bit like looking at ordnance survey maps of the Lake District - you'll find out about the contours and relative positions of things, but it's no substitute for actually being there - a description of something beautiful isn't as good as actually experiencing it.
Listening to music is essential in order to get the 'feel' of it - no one can really define nebulous concepts like 'swing' or 'groove' but you know what it is when you hear it

In a lot of styles of music the defining characteristics are the timbre of the instruments and the subtle inflections and rhythmic phrasing. If you play Mozart on a growly tenor sax with a funky backbeat, it's no longer classical music, likewise a string quartet playing 'Louie Louie' just ain't rock'n'roll.
A number of famous jazz musicians didn't like using written music because it meant that the band members were concentrating more on the dots than listening and picking up on the subtleties of phrasing that written music cannot easily convey. I can't imagine John Lee Hooker or Muddy Waters handing out sheet music, either.

I also think it's rare to find musicians who can play well in many different genres. To play Jazz, Blues, Ska, Reggae, Soul, Funk or Latin music really well, you have to be immersed in it and love it, not just a dilettante who fancies having a go. Blues or Reggae may sound easy - it's only got 3 chords - but to do it well takes a lot of practice.
Of course you've got to start somewhere and listening is the best way.
Sometimes it's better to specialise in one area than try to spread yourself too thinly, which doesn't mean not listening to different genres of music (or experiencing other art forms), but trying to play a lot of genres seems a bit pointless, flitting from one thing to another won't give you a deep understanding of any of them.
If you want to be a doctor, you study medicine. If you want to be a jazz musician, you study jazz. And like the doctor, there's only so much to be learnt from textbooks. To find out what makes it tick, you have to see it being done for real and have a go for yourself, with other more experienced people around to help you. Unlike medicine, mistakes are rarely fatal.
 
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Jamesmac

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Mostly listening and playing for a modern musician is about what makes him/her a viable candidate for work. The net has changed a lot of things. But As a young student working towards an orchestral position, I had all the books with the Difficult Clarinet passages or things you were likely to be asked in an audition. I would listen to the recording of many Orchestras. Now I just play what I like. If somebody else likes it good, if they don't good.
The characters that tell you what and how you should play, are for somebody in my musical situation best avoided. But we all have different aspirations. Bottom line if you don't need to fit in somewhere for work purposes. ( been there done that) Do your own thing. Nobody told the Beatles what to play.
 

Jamesmac

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I would be interested to hear what younger players are doing as far a what they listen to. And the motivation for listening. I read an article in my monthly PRS mag , and there was a article on a young group of guys that have a diverse background in music styles, got together to make there own brand of music. I would imagine they were also targeting a specific audience.
 

David Dorning

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I tend to think that transcriptions of jazz improvisations are a bit like looking at ordnance survey maps of the Lake District - you'll find out about the contours and relative positions of things, but it's no substitute for actually being there - a description of something beautiful isn't as good as actually experiencing it.
Listening to music is essential in order to get the 'feel' of it - no one can really define nebulous concepts like 'swing' or 'groove' but you know what it is when you hear it

In a lot of styles of music the defining characteristics are the timbre of the instruments and the subtle inflections and rhythmic phrasing. If you play Mozart on a growly tenor sax with a funky backbeat, it's no longer classical music, likewise a string quartet playing 'Louie Louie' just ain't rock'n'roll.
A number of famous jazz musicians didn't like using written music because it meant that the band members were concentrating more on the dots than listening and picking up on the subtleties of phrasing that written music cannot easily convey. I can't imagine John Lee Hooker or Muddy Waters handing out sheet music, either.

I also think it's rare to find musicians who can play well in many different genres. To play Jazz, Blues, Ska, Reggae, Soul, Funk or Latin music really well, you have to be immersed in it and love it, not just a dilettante who fancies having a go. Blues or Reggae may sound easy - it's only got 3 chords - but to do it well takes a lot of practice.
Of course you've got to start somewhere and listening is the best way.
Sometimes it's better to specialise in one area than try to spread yourself too thinly, which doesn't mean not listening to different genres of music (or experiencing other art forms), but trying to play a lot of genres seems a bit pointless, flitting from one thing to another won't give you a deep understanding of any of them.
If you want to be a doctor, you study medicine. If you want to be a jazz musician, you study jazz. And like the doctor, there's only so much to be learnt from textbooks. To find out what makes it tick, you have to see it being done for real and have a go for yourself, with other more experienced people around to help you. Unlike medicine, mistakes are rarely fatal.


Not sure what happened to the previous mail – sorry, I thought I had cancelled it. I was trying to say I had a conversation with a surgeon recently who had worked in a war zone. He had learned a set of procedures that had to be adapted to circumstances and unpredictable injuries that came in thick and fast. He likened himself to a jazz musician improvising and adapting to what cropped up. I was musing on the idea of a spectrum, at one end elective surgery = orchestral playing = high probability of satisfaction; at the other end war zone surgery = jazz improvisation = altogether more varied outcome, but to some maybe a whole lot more exciting. I think we all sit somewhere on this spectrum. I suppose I’m a dilettante as I try to spread myself over quite a bit of it!
 
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Jeanette

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Not sure what happened to the previous mail – sorry, I thought I had cancelled it. I was trying to say I had a conversation with a surgeon recently who had worked in a war zone. He had learned a set of procedures that had to be adapted to circumstances and unpredictable injuries that came in thick and fast. He likened himself to a jazz musician improvising and adapting to what cropped up. I was musing on the idea of a spectrum, at one end elective surgery = orchestral playing = high probability of satisfaction; at the other end war zone surgery = jazz improvisation = altogether more varied outcome, but to some maybe a whole lot more exciting. I think we all sit somewhere on this spectrum. I suppose I’m a dilettante as I try to spread myself over quite a bit of it!

There you go I've merged your posts.

Love the analogy :)

Jx
 

Jamesmac

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Not sure what happened to the previous mail – sorry, I thought I had cancelled it. I was trying to say I had a conversation with a surgeon recently who had worked in a war zone. He had learned a set of procedures that had to be adapted to circumstances and unpredictable injuries that came in thick and fast. He likened himself to a jazz musician improvising and adapting to what cropped up. I was musing on the idea of a spectrum, at one end elective surgery = orchestral playing = high probability of satisfaction; at the other end war zone surgery = jazz improvisation = altogether more varied outcome, but to some maybe a whole lot more exciting. I think we all sit somewhere on this spectrum. I suppose I’m a dilettante as I try to spread myself over quite a bit of it!

If you have the ability better to explore all avenues in music. the way some talk about spreading yourself, as if we were a tub of butter, so the more you spread yourself, the more thin or limited you understand the genre. On the contrary, or contrer as Del Boy would say.
We are only limited by our imagination and personal ability.
And the ability or natural musicality that allows us to take what we want from the different genre, and make what we perform our own.
 

jbtsax

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My philosophy of playing and teaching is first learn to play the instrument, and then learn to play the styles. Learning to play the instrument involves mastering all of the technical challenges and acquiring the tonal control demanded of classical playing. In its simplest terms, this means making the trumpet sound like a trumpet, a clarinet sound like a clarinet, and a saxophone sound like a saxophone. That provides the foundation to then take the sound a different direction stylistically or to produce a sound that is individually unique. Take for example the Marsalis brothers. Each can play equally well in both the classical and jazz idioms, but their training started by learning to play the instrument first.

There are lots of players in the world who have a command of all of the styles. Many of them are the first call studio players who can sit in with any group of any genre and fit right in musically and stylistically. I know several doublers in the state of Utah who can do this on multiple instruments. It takes a lot of innate musical ability and years of listening and practice to rise to this level.
 

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