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Singing and the ability to improvise are they linked ?

Wade Cornell

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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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visionari1

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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.
:thumb::thumb::thumb:

Couldn't agree more Wade...and your last phrase....

"always ensure that what you play you can always hear first"

This is something I do not do at all...so obviously I'm missing a huge step and link in getting the mind, instrument and voice to come out as one. sing internally or externally, simply must be the process!

Bloody good post Wade!
 

wol916

New Member
Messages
125
When investigating this subject a few years ago I came across the suggestion that very few (almost no) people are tone deaf, The argument went that as we communicate using our normal speaking voice we automatically change the pitch, volume and emphasis in an almost musical way - lets face it some regional accents are very melodic and musical to the ears. We can do this because we have been doing it all our lives and learned by listening and imitating others. So the theory goes that to sing we need to listen and imitate to become proficient and I guess the same could be said to apply to an instrument.

In regard to the visual aural aspect one technique I came across is related to the sound of a note, as we all appreciate chords all have a distinct sound - happy, sad, bright, forbidding etc. So it goes that individual notes possess this quality and if we play a long tone on our instrument and listen very carefully to that one note over and over it will suggest a mood or colour in our minds eye (we will I assume all see different things), over time we will come to associate each note with a colour in our heads and therefore bridge the gap between visual and aural.

I believe some of the great savant composers could physically see the music as colour and not just in the mind how cool would that be.:D
 

Colin the Bear

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Synesthesia. I could do with it the other way round. If I could hear colours I'd have a better dress sense and maybe not wear so much black.
 

Wade Cornell

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:thumb::thumb::thumb:

Couldn't agree more Wade...and your last phrase....

"always ensure that what you play you can always hear first"

This is something I do not do at all...so obviously I'm missing a huge step and link in getting the mind, instrument and voice to come out as one. sing internally or externally, simply must be the process!

Bloody good post Wade!

Thanks Jimu. Not sure how much that advice will help, as it's aimed at aural learners (who are generally not catered for). I guess it's something everyone can strive for. It should come easily for some while being difficult for those who are strictly visually oriented. There are lots of grey areas though and I'm guessing that few people are strictly one way or another.
 
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Colin the Bear

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There's lots of educated famous musicians. Art Garfunkel springs to mind and how many were teachers. Sting , Gene simmons, Cheryl Crow, spring to mind. And then there's Dr John too :cool:
 

kevgermany

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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.

Brian May, Brian Cox...

But those examples are rather tongue in cheek...

I think most of the talented guys who study to that level end up teaching at conservatory. But with music, as in photography it's results that count, not qualifications.
 

old git

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Brian May, Brian Cox...

But those examples are rather tongue in cheek...

I think most of the talented guys who study to that level end up teaching at conservatory. .

Aren't they classed as horticulturists?

Which reminds me of Dot Parker's, "You can lead a whore to culture but you cannot make her think."
 

kernewegor

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I studied music in a conservatory.

Father complained I was making too much noise in the house.
 

kevgermany

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I studied music in a conservatory.

Father complained I was making too much noise in the house.

That's the problem with making the greenhouse part of the house. Time to go back to free standing greenhouses at the bottom of the garden!
 

Targa

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People who live in glass houses shouldn't .........
 

Jane M L

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Fascinating thread!
Maybe it would be helpful for learners to observe more closely how they remember stuff - i.e. how they store information for future recall.
For instance, if I am told a phone number and want to remember it I write it down as soon as possible after first seeing or hearing it. However, I can happily forget these days within 2 seconds of getting the info and thus before writing it down. so I have worked out a strategy - I say the number out loud to myself as I hunt for a pen and paper. By hearing my own voice and even remembering the feelings as it reverberates in my chest or the room I can remember some numbers for a long time hours and days.
But if I don't make the sounds of the number, I will get all sorts of visual memory events happening - I have seen both letters and numbers in colours since as early as I can remember, so numbers remembered visually will get muddled if the 'colours' are smudged [ as they float in my minds eye's spacey space ] or similar, like lime green 7 and lemon yellow 6, or a similar shape like 3 and 8.
However if I use all these odds and end of synesthesia mindfully I can remember the gist of quite ponderous information like directions to a new place or something theoretical in the chemistry of serotonin transport -if I need to .
Using synesthesia is an odd experience at times and never quite exactly describable. For instance, learning to tune a guitar string, I had noticed a sensing as the right pitch was approached. It was almost a visual sensation of yellowish mist that became more perceptible . [.....?]
I'm thinking that getting into exploring these ineffable sensory dimensions might be helpful because the very act of inspecting one's own cerebral processes seems to remove the EGO, the judge, the censor, the shy, the unsure.
Mind you, I'm art school trained, and I'm probably getting a bit esoteric. Hopefully not and this post might be helpful.
 

Berta

New Member
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Your theory sounds legit to me, I'm not very good in singing and my improvisation skills leave much to be desired, too. The point is one is supposed to be relaxed and let those creative juices flow but it's hard to do when you are concentrated on singing.
 
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I think as a beginner all I seem to do apart from learning scales is improvising, but I think that it comes from being able to play other instruments. I cannot sing for love nor money, so in my view, I don't think it's related.
 

kernewegor

Bon vivant, raconteur and twit
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cocks hill perranporth KERNOW
I think as a beginner all I seem to do apart from learning scales is improvising, but I think that it comes from being able to play other instruments. I cannot sing for love nor money, so in my view, I don't think it's related.
I'm inclined to agree.

The voice is an instrument. Like any other, if you want to be able to use it you have to learn how, practice and build a technique. Some great instrumentalists weren't exactly good singers.

Having a good sense of rhythm and timing doesn't mean that you will be able to play the drums without learning how to do it, either.
 
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kernewegor

Bon vivant, raconteur and twit
Messages
1,736
Locality
cocks hill perranporth KERNOW
Fascinating thread!
Maybe it would be helpful for learners to observe more closely how they remember stuff - i.e. how they store information for future recall.
For instance, if I am told a phone number and want to remember it I write it down as soon as possible after first seeing or hearing it. However, I can happily forget these days within 2 seconds of getting the info and thus before writing it down. so I have worked out a strategy - I say the number out loud to myself as I hunt for a pen and paper. By hearing my own voice and even remembering the feelings as it reverberates in my chest or the room I can remember some numbers for a long time hours and days.
But if I don't make the sounds of the number, I will get all sorts of visual memory events happening - I have seen both letters and numbers in colours since as early as I can remember, so numbers remembered visually will get muddled if the 'colours' are smudged [ as they float in my minds eye's spacey space ] or similar, like lime green 7 and lemon yellow 6, or a similar shape like 3 and 8.
However if I use all these odds and end of synesthesia mindfully I can remember the gist of quite ponderous information like directions to a new place or something theoretical in the chemistry of serotonin transport -if I need to .
Using synesthesia is an odd experience at times and never quite exactly describable. For instance, learning to tune a guitar string, I had noticed a sensing as the right pitch was approached. It was almost a visual sensation of yellowish mist that became more perceptible . [.....?]
I'm thinking that getting into exploring these ineffable sensory dimensions might be helpful because the very act of inspecting one's own cerebral processes seems to remove the EGO, the judge, the censor, the shy, the unsure.
Mind you, I'm art school trained, and I'm probably getting a bit esoteric. Hopefully not and this post might be helpful.
A very useful post (only just seen!)

Learning how memory works is the most useful thing a student can do. Having good memorisation techniques and being aware of what triggers memory is part of it. Understanding memory decay and how to schedule revision is the other part.

Memory triggers vary from one individual to another, but the principles encompass this.

Synesthesia / ideasthesia is fascinating. For those not naturally gifted in this way visualisation and other techniques have been developed, such as in Zen Buddhism and so on, which can be useful.

Number, space and pattern visualisation is particularly useful for music.

Mental techniques and exercises, mumbo-jumbo, magic, ju-ju, psychology - the jury is still out on many aspects of how the mind works.

If it works and I can do so safely I use it. Like a chainsaw, really...
 

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