- New Zealand and Australia
For me, the theory has been a way into learning to hear the changes (and therefore being able to play something relevant on them). For instance, playing arpeggios, scale fragments and any other patterns you can think of over a chord progression over and over until you can hear it (at least partly) without a backing track or band-in-a-box. But without knowing something about chords, chord scales and voice leading I wouldn't be able to make those exercises up for myself on a given song.
I hear much more than I did two years ago, and it's made a huge difference to my playing. I'm not saying I'm good (yet!) but I'm already doing stuff I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to do. I don't think I would have been able to get here without some kind of theoretical framework. Other people seem to benefit from a different approach. I don't think I'm really disagreeing with you here, Wade, but some of your posts seem to suggest that you think theory is harmful. I think what I'm trying to say is that it's only harmful if it's misapplied.
Definitely not disagreeing with you at all as current teaching techniques (without ear training) works well for many people and may be the only way they can come to grips with improvising. Theory, along with everything else that informs and educates, is good and necessary for anyone who is serious about music. The only point I'm making is that learning by a strictly visual/mechanical means (the predominant current method) isn't necessarily the best method for teaching aural types of learners. It's like reading a message in another language that you have to translate, even though it was originally spoken in your language. If someone can sing a good improvisation, even though they have never learned to play an instrument or studied music, why would/should that person disregard that talent? Yet, that's exactly what the current teaching system does. Hopefully that person, if they go through the current teaching system, will retain some spark of their original talent, and some obviously do. But I fear that many are subsumed by the system that supposedly is there to nurture them.
Many very talented artists (all fields) are encouraged to go into advanced studies. It curious that I can't think of a single famous artist or musician who has a PhD.
It would be difficult or impossible to design a syllabus that tries to teach creativity. What is taught is what can be taught by conventional visual and mechanical means. It is very ensconced, but that does not mean that it is definitive or even effective for those who are aurally oriented. I certainly don't have all the answers, but it is plain to see that there exists a problem for some who are ill served by current conventions. The only simplistic practice I can offer aural/talented people is to try and make an instrument that you are learning your voice. Do NOT give up your own distinctive voice and creativity in order to play rote patterns that you can't hear in your head. Listen, absorb, study, copy, but always ensure that what you play you can always hear first.
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