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#1139149 - 07/30/07 12:19 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7096
Loc: So. California
 Quote:
Originally posted by swingal:


I will retract that statement as written.

[/b]
Hi Alan, I didn't think badly of your comment. I think your advice may bode well depending on the audience. Obviously, not everyone likes jazz.

My point of view though is that I play music for my enjoyment and sometimes that means I don't cater to the audience. Yeah, I probably won't be able to jazzify anything if I'm comping for a singer.

But often when playing solo piano, no one's listening anyway so I'll just play the way I want.
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#1139150 - 07/30/07 12:31 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi Jazzwee \:\)

Thanks for the advice its good to make sure I know what I'm talking about and that I'm not talking utter tosh!! ...I think I need to listen to more jazz so that I know exactly what I am referring to.

I am not keen on the way out jazz to be honest...but I like a song to swing...I love the Sinatra Big Band type of stuff...but, I dig the cocktail sound too


Hmmm...too much to learn too little time


Lee \:\)

I'll see if I can find that Kenny Werner version of My Romance to see if I like that kind of stuff?
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#1139151 - 07/30/07 01:01 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7096
Loc: So. California
Lee, Kenny does some pretty fancy stuff on that improvisation-wise but I'm just making note of how differently a jazz pianist plays solo compared to a non-jazz pianist.

Back to the discussion of what to learn -- I think that knowing all the major scales inside and out is a critical requirement. You have to get out of playing in C my friend.

In jazz when I asked you to try a b9, #9, b13, etc. It's basically like playing a chord in a different key while keeping some tones in the original key (by keeping the 3 and 7). So you can't really picture simple concepts like Tritone substitution in the key of C since in essence it is a shift to the key of F#.

What I wrote about gives you a chance to hear what jazz chords sound like. True implementation of this requires full mastery of theory, which frankly isn't that hard for a piano die hard like you. It's stuff you can learn while away from a piano.

One more thing I neglected to mention. Many traditional songs are written with just triads in mind for chords instead of full seventh chords. Jazz usually relies on seventh chords and that's why the 7th of the chord is particularly important. In fact, you could just play 1/7 or 3/7 in the LH and the RH could fill in a note or two of the chord (besides the melody) and it will sound pretty full.
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#1139152 - 07/30/07 05:10 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi jw
 Quote:
You have to get out of playing in C my friend.
I know...but, I'm so ridiculously comfy in C and I have to start thinking so much more in other keys and I am like the worlds laziest person (Mrs Seaside will vouch for this!


thanks for the help


So, scale work it is then


Lee
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#1139153 - 07/30/07 06:48 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7096
Loc: So. California
Lee, there's two aspects to scale work. One is the technique side of scales, but the other side which is easier to figure out is just to learn to visualize the scale. Doesn't mean you have to do the scale at 200bpm.

One has to visualize the intervals automatically without thinking. So if I need to hit the 3rd, 5th b7, and 13 of the scale, I should know where it is in a microsecond. If practiced a little bit every day, it becomes second nature in a short amount of time.

With this knowledge, you would be able to take a leadsheet and play a tune you've never seen before in an instant. Very gratifying, let me tell you.

But don't worry, I'm not pushing you to do it. At least you can print out some of the stuff here and make it available for later action.

For the moment, just enjoy the jazzy sound you create in C.
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#1139154 - 07/31/07 02:10 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
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Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
'morning all! Lee and jazzwee.

My brain (or what's left of it) functions best at this time of day. 6.30 am.

Lee, will do a tape recording for you. Old Man River. We went up it to New Orleans last Dec. A fantastic holiday steeped in jazz with wonderfully nice folk to mix with.

I'm glad you mentioned key of C too. That is an ear players starting key in my opinion. One soon sees the need to use semitones though. Surely the limit on writing music is almost nil without use of the black notes.

The reason I opened this topic was to try and find how many people do play by ear and have no theory.

Yes, it's a silly way really and unless you concentrate on huge amounts of practice and have the mind that can store the sounds in the subconscious brain it may be a limit to success.

On the subject of comping to singers. Try and find DVDs of Ralph Sharon comping to Tony Bennett Ralph has a super jazz style of improvisation on the hoof it seems.

Many professional pianists use huge amounts of memorized technique and musicality and theory. They do not have to read, though they can.

Lee why not play a chord say c e g then c e-flat g and continue practicing all chords with using semitones to make harmonization. That is basic but is a way of adding some nuance to otherwise plain standard music.

When I started learning we had some song-sheet music in the house and I used to follow the tonic sol fah, written for the singer? that was my way of learning when quite a young child.

jazzwee has a good way of teaching and if you have some theory so much the better.

I personally cannot change and the poor old brain has quite enough sounds in the sub-cons. that there's no way, I could change now.

Bye Bye!whilst my awful broadband is intact.

Alan.

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#1139155 - 08/01/07 12:12 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7096
Loc: So. California
Swingal and Lee, if one is stuck in one key (whatever it is), does that then exclude a whole slew of standards that modulate through several keys? That's a little limiting isn't it?

That might be most of the tunes in a Real Book or Tin Pan Alley standards...
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#1139156 - 08/01/07 09:15 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Yup

Theres still plenty of songs I can't play and plenty of bridges that I can't figure yet because they modulate...but, I am aware of this.

Its my lazy backside that's preventing me doing the work for it...but, the desire is finally eating into my lazy persona to get off my butt and just flippin' well do it! :rolleyes:

My thinking on this (and this is just my thoughts so take 'em with a pinch of salt) is that it doesn't really matter where you start with the piano, maybe, taking regular lessons or doing things by yourself its a journey of discovery and you can't learn everything in a weekend.

My 3 and a half year piano playing journey has so far been a heap of fun but, even so I have put many, many hours in plinking away...now, though something inside is pushing me to start taking things in new directions and I'm glad Alan started this thread, if only for me to start to see it and think about how to go about it.


regards


Lee
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#1139157 - 08/01/07 01:31 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Gilbert Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/22/06
Posts: 442
Loc: Ireland
It is always great to see a wealth of play by ear and classically trained pianists on the board taking the time to pass on the 'tricks of the trade'. Can we have some nice demo videos on technique?
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#1139158 - 08/01/07 01:39 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Yeah...I'm with Gilbert

Videos would be cool...preferably at a 10th of the speed of Doug McKenzies ;\) and simpler [duh!]


Lee \:\)
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#1139159 - 08/02/07 09:44 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Jazzwee.

When I read comments about the key of C. Like your:- "if one is stuck in one key (whatever it is), does that then exclude a whole slew of standards that modulate through several keys? That's a little limiting isn't it?"

Yes that's correct surely. But who's going to play that way? I would think limiting any Key to the actual full tones that the key uses is impossible to have harmonization. jazzwee you are correct then.

But learning by ear soon makes one use the semitones surely.

I don't, in view of what I've said here on this topic, even think it was meant to play a straight scale of C major. This is most primitive way of playing and few here are that basic. I would think.

Hope I got the message correctly,?

Regards

Alan (swingal)

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#1139160 - 08/02/07 11:15 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Studio Joe Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/28/07
Posts: 1803
Loc: Decatur, Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by 193866:
Floyd Cramer style piano... Does anyone play this style and could help me understand the theory of his style please? Sandy B [/b]
I was reading through this thread (good disscussions) and this post caught my eye.

I play Floy Cramer style. I've been doin' it for so long, it's mostly in the muscle memory of my right hand. I hear in my mind what I want and my hand does it without thinking. I did sit down just now and played a few bars of "Last Date" while watching my hands. Grace notes are the key. Usually major7 or 9th of the root. Grace notes are released and the rest of the notes in the chord are sustained.

In the key of C after the bass pick-up (G,A,B,C,), the first chord with R.H. was E,F,A rolled then the E released and The F,A sustained. That's an F maj7 without root. The second chord is D,E,G rolled with the D released and E,G sustained. (C9) Hope this helps give you an idea. Sorry I can't give you more detail, but since I do it by ear I have to play slow and analyze what I do to describe it.

After 25 years of playing by note, I started playing with country bands and was forced to learn to play by ear. I didn't start out to try to imitate anyone, until one day someone told me my style sounded like Floyd Cramer.
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#1139161 - 08/03/07 01:00 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jotur Online   blank
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5539
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
Joe, thanks for the jump start on what Floyd Cramer does - his style is so relaxed and swingy. Hm. More things to try out \:\)

Cathy
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#1139162 - 08/03/07 06:45 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7096
Loc: So. California
 Quote:
Originally posted by swingal:
Jazzwee.

When I read comments about the key of C. Like your:- "if one is stuck in one key (whatever it is), does that then exclude a whole slew of standards that modulate through several keys? That's a little limiting isn't it?"

Yes that's correct surely. But who's going to play that way? I would think limiting any Key to the actual full tones that the key uses is impossible to have harmonization. jazzwee you are correct then.

But learning by ear soon makes one use the semitones surely.

I don't, in view of what I've said here on this topic, even think it was meant to play a straight scale of C major. This is most primitive way of playing and few here are that basic. I would think.

Hope I got the message correctly,?

Regards

Alan (swingal) [/b]
Hi Alan, it was more in reference to Lee. But again this touches on theory. Playing in C and using semitones is one thing but as I said in my earlier example, if you are playing a G7 and have substituted the 1,3,5,b7 with tension notes (the semitones of C scale like b9, #9, #11, b13), in essence, we have shifted to a different scale, perhaps F# instead of C. Now one can continue to think of these as still in C but a whole different harmonic understanding is revealed by knowing the connection between different keys.

I realize that in playing by ear, most tunes are based on simple diatonic progressions. Playing a standard though like "All the Things That You Are" will fail under an analysis using a single Key. Trying to analze a modulating tune under the premise of whole tones and accidentals of the main key would make it extraordinarily complex.

It's possible to understand it that way but it will become just a series of unrelated tones instead of one being able to visualize triad relationships and such.

Going back to C scale. A quick visual would show that playing #9 and b7 of C(Eb and Bb) is actually a Bb scale (C Minor). In another example one would see that Bb, D, F is actually a Bb triad, not a b7, 9,11 of C which sounds like a meaningless sequence. Yes all notes are found in a C scale but the lose meaning.

I think that playing by ear and knowing each scale are not separate concepts. I think actually that someone that plays mostly by ear has even more incentive to learn every key so that one can translate what one hears into a "chord progression". As a strong ear player myself, I tend to think in progressions (I, IV, V). Once I know the progression, the key itself becomes irrelevant right?

Anyway this is just an education point. I think that knowing all the scales is quite a bit more important than knowing how to read and I think it is key to ear playing and that I promote knowing it highly.
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#1139163 - 08/06/07 07:26 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
jazzwee,

I have to admit that I have extremely limited theory of the piano. All I know is what the notes (keys) are called in one octave. I even get confused as to notes like F# and Gb which are the same note on the key board.

Therefore Lee and you both have much more theory. I simply rely on pitch and my memory, that is the limit.

I can liken it to the memory of pure pianists, as I have said somewhere on these forums. They have all the theory and qualifications that professional players have. Plus the ability of theory memorization.

They transfer their memory of the score to put their fingers where they know the correct notes are on the keyboard. They also improvise on jazz the same way, by their knowledge of theory and what modulations provide what sounds. Am I correct?

A pianist like me has the memory 'only' but also the ability to subconsciously recall the key sounds that represent the required notes of chords and harmonic variations of the piece being played. This does require a good pitch recall.

Playing along with recorded music is very good practice. One proviso, your piano must be up to pitch and the recording must be likewise. Some recordings are not,usually due to incorrect speed of the recording studio turntable,I guess.

Yes, jazzwee I agree also about knowing the scales but as we are talking jazz, the aspect of learning scale theory,if a pure ear player,then isn't that part of the pure ear ability?

The art of improvisation should be in the mind and with memory the correct sounds come naturally from years of practice and keyboard mastery. Similarly as professional reading ability jazz pianists do.

When I started this topic, I meant, "pianists that can read and those that cannot". Perhaps that description is rather confusing. There are quite a few variables between us all I suppose.

Any views on that please/

Alan (swingal)

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#1139164 - 08/06/07 01:31 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi Alan

My feeling is that the more you use "your ear" to listen to the sounds you make the better it gets (as thats been the case with me so far).

Which is really where I was coming from with my initial questions...not being able to read sheet music at all and not being able to read lead sheets very well either I have had to learn how to use my ears these past few years and they definitely are getting better...I don't know if theory is ever going to come easily to me but, I have started doing a little scale work now (since last week anyway jazzwee ;\) )

Although, I get the feeling that its probably always going to be a struggle for me and so with this in mind, I'm still hoping that by constantly striving to listen to the sounds that I create that my ear will continue to get even keener with time maybe, to the extent that I just know where to go to create many of those pretty sounds that I like?


regards


Lee \:\)
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#1139165 - 08/06/07 08:04 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Lee, I like that response. I, for better or worse go back a heck of a long time and if, just if! I had concentrated on simply playing the piano throughout all those c70 years. I might, or even should, have been a lot better off, ability-wise.

Trouble is, once I get to a reasonable level and I find it remains in the subconscious recall, then I get involved with other activities and so it goes on. Dedication is a nice asset to have but life has so many interesting facets to it that music is not just the only thing.

One thing is, do not loose confidence in yourself it takes time and your 3 or so years are nothing time-wise. Just be positive and tenacious you will be happy with yourself then.

Best of Luck. We are all wired up differently so be happy with your lot.

Alan, PS and thanks for the email.

Swingal

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#1139166 - 08/07/07 05:14 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7096
Loc: So. California
Al, suprisingly, jazz is made up of tons of theory. One would think this is an ear player's haven but to play modern jazz means almost intense understanding of scales and just music theory in general.

My personal take is that jazz is not playable without theory. Sure if you play alone, you may sound jazzy but true freedom in playing arises from complete understanding of the music. I daresay that jazzers have a better understanding of theory than most classical players because it is the theory that sets the foundation for what we play and since there is little written music.

But yet, I also want to emphasize that jazz is truly based on the ear too. It is the combination of ear and theory that makes this music (notice the lack of mention of written music).

I don't do a lot of reading. I can read now but not quickly. I haven't played the piano that long, maybe the same time as you guys but I think of myself as being very advanced in understanding theory. This is why I'm able to relate as I focused all my energy into understanding theory from day 1.

Scales is just a foundation of theory and there's a lot more. It gets to a point where theory and ear meet and I think this is when the sparks fly and some exciting sounds (for me at least) are created.

In case you think theory is some complex thing, I would summarize it to be the study of "Tension and Release" in music. That's what it is all about really.
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#1139167 - 08/07/07 05:21 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7096
Loc: So. California
Lee, as an example, wouldn't it be nice to know that not only did you hear three notes in some musical line that they are actually a minor third apart? And that this kind of interval creates tension?

Your brain will connect more to what you are listening to when you can identify a structure with the sound. Some sounds are harder to identify. Augmented and Diminished scales for example. Often one is limited to simple music because one only hears dissonances in a complex line. This is where knowledge of theory allows you to practice the sound and recognize it in all its occurrences.
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#1139168 - 08/07/07 09:57 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi Alan and jazzwee \:\)


Yes I'm in agreement with both of you and want to do both (so, I am going to do)

Your answers are perfect to cement my thinking on this, thats why I keep on questioning


Many thanks to the both of you for your help its appreciated


Lee \:\)
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#1139169 - 08/08/07 09:21 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
jazzwee,

In one sense I see what you mean. Modern jazz like Bill Evans and Keith Jarret and many many others, I agree do use a lot of theory and this something they learn at a college.Or a suitable Teacher.

On the other hand more traditional jazz and swing stuff prior to about 1975 or so is not to technically composed. The fairly simple songs and dance music as Benny Goodman played would not need that much theory surely? Yet it was jazz provided it had that jazz beat,

Now please listen to Erroll Garner. If he used theory it was not his teaching or his knowledge of theory it was his brain and his feeling for rhythm and jazz beat. He could not read any music.

That was why I started this thread. To see how many pianists played without either any theory or reading ability. They played by their ability to know where to put their fingers to provide the required sounds and structure of the music. All from memory and/or mastery of the keyboard.

Erroll started very young,about age 4. A natural musician from the in-born ability to do what he did. Not a common thing to do from what we know.

Does that make any sense.?

Alan (swingal)

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#1139170 - 08/08/07 09:42 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
P.S. It means some pianists can play without considering what theory they use or need to. They have the rhythm in their head, the notes on the keyboard all have a sound which can be formed into a melodic chord or a run or arpeggio whatever,by ear and practice in jazz music of the pre-bebop era backward.

I cannot understand much of the current style of jazz. Probably because I have not been taught the theory.
Am I getting closer to what you say Jazzwee?

But please don't ask me to try and learn theory, as I can play what I like with out it I know what notes to play and it suits my sense of my type of jazz which is not the current styles.

I still like ragtime and blues and boogie, now thats a challenge for the left hand.

I would not recommend my style of playing, the teaching of theory is basically correct,no doubt.

I'm too old to change now.

Kind regards,

Alan

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#1139171 - 08/09/07 04:30 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Tony V Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/14/07
Posts: 354
At first glance, I thought this thread was about illiterate pianists.

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#1139172 - 08/09/07 05:31 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Gilbert Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/22/06
Posts: 442
Loc: Ireland
If it is of any value to the debate, I can play much better from sheet music than by ear despite having a very good ear. Melody and chord progression are no problem at all as I've played guitar for 30 years but I need the discipline of sheet music to get the song into the back of my brain. When I have it worked out I find I can then play it almost from memory with sufficient practice. If I try and tackle a song by ear I find that theres no end to the options available and styles you can tackle a song.

I have discovered recently that if you purchase any of the songbooks or sheets by Hal Leonard you have a better chance of playing the tune as it has been recorded. Some sheet music is awful.
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#1139173 - 08/09/07 10:25 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
mahlzeit Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/06
Posts: 1910
Loc: Netherlands
I wonder if people like Erroll Garner and Alan have formed their own "theory" that may be very different (or not) from traditional theory or at least less formalized, but still some way to organize the sounds they are making? Even though they may not be able to consciously explain this "alternative theory", I wonder if it's still present in their heads somewhere.
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#1139174 - 08/09/07 06:25 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
ktom Offline
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Registered: 05/07/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Somerset UK
This continues to be an interesting thread.. how the devil do we all manage to do this "playing" thing? My own experience over the past 43 (jesus.. tempus fugit!!!) years has felt like a parallel progression of theory and instinct.. sometimes one ahead, sometimes the other, and the really interesting times (which still happen) are when one passes the other. I remember realising that those nice blues chords I invented for myself were actually 9ths.. I remember reading about "alt" chords in Mark Levine's book, and on playing some, realising they were the sound I couldnt always get when I wanted it. Theory is still not as well integrated into my playing as I would like.. but this sense of two parts uniting has kept me gripped for all this time. So what?? I guess one can have ones own model of how one gets the sound one wants, which for my 9ths was mostly about putting my thumb or little finger in the "wrong" place. I dont know about Errol Garner, but given all his combo playing, it is difficult to believe he didnt acquire some knowledge of conventional theory, despite his non reading. I have played with guitarists who couldnt read dots, but who knew far more than me about jazz harmonies and progressions. Maybe the parallel is learning a foreign language.. deep knowledge of syntax and grammar can make you a good translator, but true fluency means thinking in the language and you need immersion to achieve that, whether or not you have the theory. So what? I am not sure.. complicated stuff...:-)
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#1139175 - 08/09/07 07:02 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
ktom,

It is an interesting thread, I agree.

Erroll Garner played as though he had theory but I'm 100 % sure he never understood it. He simply played what he wanted to by ear, that included all the new inventions of his own and others that he just liked and played. That was his style he did not need knowledge other than his own ear and rare ability to play what he needed for the improvisation. Memory, pitch and talent.

Alan.

PS, there is an biography and I will give you details when I find them.

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#1139176 - 08/10/07 05:54 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
The Biography of Erroll Garner.

Titled:-" Erroll Garner.The Most Happy Piano "

By; James M Doran.

Copyright date. 1984. 481 pages.
ISBN 0-8108-1745-4

The Scarecrow Press and the Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University


I hope all you doubting folk can read this book. You will become very emotional by the comments made by his contemporaries and fellow musicians. You will never doubt his rare ability again.

His early demise in 1977 age 56 is tragic. He started playing on the family upright at age 2.

I have seen him 3 times here in England and once to meet him after the concert in his Dressing Room. A shy man but always cheerful.

Good luck in finding the book!

Alan.

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#1139177 - 08/10/07 04:36 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Amant Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/29/07
Posts: 310
Loc: Southwest
Dave Brubeck was nearly expelled from college (University of the Pacific), when one of his professors discovered that he could not read sheet music.

Several of his professors came forward arguing for his ability with counterpoint and harmony, but the school was still afraid that it would cause a scandal, and only agreed to let Brubeck graduate once he promised never to teach piano.

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#1139178 - 08/10/07 10:04 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Dr John,

That's interesting. I have never seen any recorded piano CDs or anything of his. Does anyone know of any please. I have a clip somewhere of Take Five. which is a marathon work, but not for me really.

I have read comment from other people who completely indulge in him so would like to hear more of him.

Swingal (Alan)

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