Sir Duke Explained

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,786
Location
Manchester, UK
I don't know about learned, but...

Perhaps some of the more learned musicians will comment on this thought:
Forget about chords, ...
To be honest, about the only word I understood in that was "chord". How am I supposed to learn the harmony to a song without thinking about chords? I thaink that saying their "just" a shorthand is severely underestimating the importance of shorthands (is that even a word?). Just about every English noun (table, dog, music, ..) is a shorthand for something far more complex than the one word makes it sound.
 

Jazzaferri

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,292
Location
Victoria BC Canada
Theory is just using the English language to explain what is happening musically.

There are lots of wonderful musicians who are fluent in music, probably moreso than their native speaking language who have no idea of theory. I know of two fine guitaristswho dont even know what an E7 chord is until you play it. No chord names no theory but they hear the music. A parallel might be ghe fact that one can speak pretty well even if you know nothing of sentences phrases nouns adjectives adverbs etc.
 

Dibbs

Member
Messages
524
Perhaps some of the more learned musicians will comment on this thought:
Forget about chords, they're just shorthand to make it easy to play a tune. No one will argue that a chord is simply two or more notes played together, or at least one interval between two notes. In the Stevie Wonder song discussed on the video, like in every musical composition, the important sound for human perception is voice leading. Paintings exist without time, you look at and can see the whole painting. Music can not exist without time, it happens over time. That movement is driven by rhythm, melody and harmony. Yes, we talk about substitutions as an after the fact theory and a learning tool, but I believe what we need to understand -- no, to hear -- are the voices that make up the harmony around a melody. I think after the rhythm and the melody, to a great extent, music moves us based on the movement of these voicings that make up the "chords" The way each voice moves up, down, or stays the same in relation to the other voices (pedal tone) is akin to the way planets move in the galaxy. (Too far out?) Next time you listen to something complex like Bill Evans' Danny Boy (see BOTM), focus on how the voices (the notes in the harmony) not only relate to each other, but move in relation to each other.
Or, go to a piano or guitar and play a G#9 and then a G7#9#5. If both of these chords have D# and A# on the top you'll hear what I mean. Those two notes don't move, even though the harmony changes radically by resolving (usually temporarily to the dominant before that resolves to a tonic). Maybe the most important thing to remember about the word chromatic is that it was derived from chrome which originally meant color.

Yes. Melodic voice leading is very important. That's one of the reasons that species counterpoint is still taught.

But don't forget about chords. Consonance and dissonance are also important as is root movement. Then there is harmonic voice leading as opposed to melodic. Neo-Riemannian theory has a lot to say about that.

Have a listen to Chopin's E minor prelude. Each chord changes only one note for the most part. Lovely.
 

Dibbs

Member
Messages
524
Theory is just using the English language to explain what is happening musically.

There are lots of wonderful musicians who are fluent in music, probably moreso than their native speaking language who have no idea of theory. I know of two fine guitaristswho dont even know what an E7 chord is until you play it. No chord names no theory but they hear the music. A parallel might be ghe fact that one can speak pretty well even if you know nothing of sentences phrases nouns adjectives adverbs etc.
Theory that is only descriptive is useful in that it allows us to communicate musical ideas in words. There is another level though. That is where the theory is not just purely descriptive but generative as well. Take chord substitution techniques for example. Suppose you want to change some chords to add colour to some simple tune. Without the theory you could only try random things until you came up with something that sounded good to you. That's would be a perfectly valid technique but a painfully slow one.

I'm sure the highly talented but musically illiterate musicians you refer to know many of the same or similar techniques, They just figured them out themselves and don't have names for them.
 
OP
randulo

randulo

18 months of alto
Subscriber
Messages
1,567
Location
France
How am I supposed to learn the harmony to a song without thinking about chords?
As you said, the word "dog" isn't a dog. An Am6 can be called at least two other chords depending upon the root. Yes, for learning, chords are a useful shorthand, but they don't define the harmony. The harmony defines structures we can call chords. For the purpose of hearing the music, it is better not to think only of chords (or scales for that matter) because often their names are arbitrary. IOW, the same three notes can be called a lot of names in the context of their function, yet they aren't really chords. Let me give an example.

Go to an instrument and play these notes together: G C# F# (or G Db Gb). What is that chord? It can not have a name without its harmonic context. It could be functioning as an A13 or an Eb7#9, but standing alone, it's neither.

I'm not criticising anyone wanting to use "chords", but they are not the full story.
 

Jazzaferri

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,292
Location
Victoria BC Canada
Everyone has their own way to earn music. What works for one may not be as successful for another.

If you grew up with a father or mother writing and playing contrapuntal harmony you would have a very different learning curve and understanding of music than someone startingto learn music at age 50.

Its the journey that is important, because in the end we all end up in the same state. I have left a number of bands because I would rather play a simple arrangement of 3 blind mice in time and in the groove than a complex arrangement of Sir Duke (which our big band does) and sound mushy in some of the trickier notey bits. Its really hard to get 19 people to be locked solid in the groove
 
Top Bottom