Separate names with a comma.
Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by WetBandit, Feb 18, 2019.
I have thought about that, and that does make sense.
Maybe it's just ear and instict?
^^^This^^^ this is me too.
I struggle to "hear" what I'm playing, but I know it when what I'm playing does not fit the song.
I'd imagine it's kind of like driving a car but not being able to explain the precise laws of physics or calculations that come into play.
First off....I bet you know more music theory than you realize. I knew the circle of fifths and fourths and relative majors/minors LONG before I knew what they were called. Having a good ear and good sense of rhythm also helps.
In college, one summer job I had was outdoor property maintenance.....the old guy I worked with had a (poor) third grade education. He could disassemble and rebuild a tractor BLIND-FOLDED....but he couldn't SPELL tractor.....in fact, his wife had to fill out his time sheet every week. But he possessed more PRACTICAL knowledge than I'll ever have!
I have been able to read standard music notation since I was a child and studied music theory on and off my whole life. Unfortunately, it's always been hard for me to find other players who do anything other than "play by ear" and have no actual idea what they are playing. Over the years, I also developed my ear, so now if I'm noodling around and hit a note of a chord a certain way, it triggers something in my brain that recalls a song and I can work it out from there. Or sometimes I hear the opening chord of a song and suddenly know pretty much how to play it. The biggest problem I find now is getting bored working things out before I get it down perfect and I think that's because I don't really have any aspirations to play out or with people anymore.
I am the last person that you want to take advice from, but I would focus on three things: 1) the notes on the fretboard, 2) the interval names between scale degrees (which is just the interval names between notes) and 3) the circle of fifths. I wouldn't let any of those three things stop you from playing. I would just look a those three things from time to time. At some point you will probably see a relationship between what you are doing and what people call out as music theory terms. It ain't all that magical or mysterious.
It's great that you have this ability. It is a somewhat rare ability, but common enough that most people know of somebody who exhibits the ability to play just about anything that they hear. The guitar is a great instrument for this kind of ability, since the chord shapes are the same up the neck.
A whole lot of music that people play on guitar is based on common chord progressions, so if you know one blues or rock or Tin Pan Alley song, you can passably play hundreds.
The drawback of this trait is in communication and playing in settings other than alone or in a rock, folk, blues, gospel or country band and in playing music that is longer than three minutes and contains changes of key and tempo and uses instruments other than guitar, bass, piano and drums.
There is a vast world of music performance that requires sight-reading skill and cooperation with dancers, choirs and actors, as well as other musicians. In these settings, the huge number moving parts make reading music a necessity.
In this video, at 1:30 Tim Pierce, who is a monster player but not a reader, talks about how he prepped to play bits of 80 songs for the Grammy pre-show, in a group in which he was the only non-reader. My guess is that the other players also are great ear players, in addition to also being able to read music.
I’m coming at it backwards to that, but I get that others (like the op) learn that way.
I learn the relationships and then see that I’ve been hearing them all my life.
It’s all good, of course. Like you say, theory is just names and a communication tool. And a framework for composing.
Because being a good musician has nothing to do with theoretical knowledge. Some of the best musicians I know “don’t know anything.”
It’s really simple.
All you need is the ability to play sounds you hear, whether they are in your head or sounds you hear from others. That’s it.
Even if you know theory, you still have to learn to do that. There are no shortcuts.
By the time you’ve developed your musical ear to that extent, you’ve usually also played thousands of tunes and you know “how music goes.’
You could benefit from learning more though.
Your weakness as a musician probably lies in communicating musical ideas to others.
That’s where knowing the names helps.
Now just imagine if you take what you know ... and learn the theory behind it.
I've always maintained that all music theory gives us (in a bottom line, practical sense) is names for things, and bases on which to decide what name(s) to use. That way you can talk about "that Phrygian lick over the ii chord that resolves down to the V" (no idea if that makes sense, just pulling terms out of thin air) instead of "that part where I go weedly-weedly-woo! and Joey goes dun! and then dun-DUN!"
In my example, both ways of describing what they're describing are equally valid because they refer to the same thing. But the "rules" of music theory make it easier to talk to someone else about music because the terminology is more precise. Music theory is really just the language of music, or more precisely, the language of talking about music.
All this is to say that, while knowing music theory is cool and useful (and nowhere near the alchemical mystery we sometimes build it up to be), it's just a way to talk about what you've been doing for decades.
Talk about a guy you want to grab beer with! That was completely entertaining. Super modest guy who has a Gene Hackman thing going on. Monster player who kills it with perfect tone and still sounds like he's apologizing.
I just spent 30 minutes splitting my time between improvising some 12 bar blues and playing forlorn major scale stuff over a I-V-vi-IV loop, just so I could feel better about myself lol.
Besides theory being a common language between all musicians (that play any music derived from the Western European tradition, of course), I have found so much inspiration in theory's ability to elevate what you are capable of hearing, and therefore, creating. I came up with the initial part for a song by practicing the melodic minor scale in 11ths; sounds super tedious and technical, ended up being very spirited and inspirational...
My Berklee private guitar mentor told me early on, "You've got a good ear, but it can only take you so far. Studying will take you beyond what you can hear". So true. My songwriting, arranging and improvising wouldn't possibly have advanced to where I'm at without all that study (not that I've arrived, this will be lifelong). I was a technically proficient player before studying in depth, but the difference after the fact is not even in the same league, and I'm grateful for it.
Now, some of my favorite musicians/songwriters didn't study, so it comes down to personal vision. I decided that theory was necessary for me to make the music I wanted to, but one size does not fit all.
Fantastic video, thanks! And what a delightful player and teacher, he obviously loves it. I'm checking out his YT channel.
I'm guessing you're over estimating your ability.
You are lucky. I am an analyst; I end up thinking "Key of x, pentatonic scale, so use the natural minor and skip the second and sixth, but if I want a blues scale, add the..." all while trying to play something, while trying to translate notes on the fretboard. By the end of a even a short piece, I'm mentally exhausted, and often behind and out of synch with the rhythm part.
My guitar teacher would laugh at me and say "Dammit Unixfish, quit thinking and just play!" He had a point. Learn the pattern, listen to what you are playing, and make it work.
It's been a long time since I could play an instrument by feel (and that was not guitar) - I really want to get back there. I just don't play enough - or rearrange priorities enough - to get there.
I still like to know the theory end of it, but I quickly drop into a rabbit hole to where I paralyze myself. I need to just hear what to do and quit thinking.
Learning music is a lot like learning another language; you're rewiring your brain to think differently. Because it's also a physical skill, it's more like learning American Sign Language than French or German. Once that rewiring is accomplished, you don't actually need labels for the things you're doing with your hands; your brain just knows that to accomplish the sound it's envisioning, your hands must do X, the same way your brain knows that to communicate the idea "guitar," you must say the word "guitar."
The labels do, however, make it much easier to have a conversation with someone else about what you're doing or what you'd like them to do.
That's the aim.
If nothing else, I'm glad my thread inspired you to pick up your guitar!