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#1139089 - 07/16/07 03:37 AM Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
It has been suggested that I start a new topic entitled ' Pure By Ear Pianists.'or as I titled it above. This in response from member 'Rerun'

I would like to know how many pianists on these forums play strictly as the true definition.'By ear'.

This is to have a discussion on playing an instrument by ear. In our case the piano.

The first requirement is to be a pianist that may never have had lessons and has reached an acceptable level of competence and has to a fair degree mastered the piano.

There is a man whom I came across on the website ' Learn Piano Jazz' I will have to get his permission to give his name, to be correct I think.

Anyhow, what he told me after reading my replies on playing by ear, was that I had 'Absolute Pitch' . He then sent me a 5 page description entitled 'The Subconscious in Music'.

Basically this means that you utilize the sub-conscious brain facility. This means you look for the correct sounds from touching the keys till you find the exact notes in the keyboard plus the melody, chords, the bass and rhythm.

It is a function of connecting the conscious mind with subconscious mind whilst playing, in a spontaneous way.

He goes on to say that most people play using their conscious brain. He quotes the fact that blind pianists have a wonderful connection with both conscious and subconscious mind.

I can visualize a piece of music in my head as a sound without humming it, purely a sound. Can you readers do this? On the matter of 'speaking whilst playing' I find that very difficult.

I know I'm very deeply connected with the subconscious, as one day my wife came up to me unseen, whilst I was playing and suddenly stamped on the wood floor near the piano which startled me so much I was in a trauma for about 5 minutes. She was very surprised, so was I and that was a dreadful shock to me. Though it proves the point of complete absorbing of the subconscious in the music being played.

It is often said that pianists make good racing drivers and that has been my experience. I have done some motor racing myself and can see the connection relating to the subconscious brain recall matter.

As someone recently asked " how do I input rhythm into jazz playing ?" I said use your foot to get the beat. My mentor above states this in his paper. You mark the pulse with foot or head nodding. Though some pianists I have seen do neither ! Teddy Wilson for one . Oscar Peterson uses head and foot. Even classical pianists have body and head movements as you will notice.

As I do not read I cannot comment but surely you do that do memorize the score? so being able to play from memory the complete composition as written?

Not all professional classical performers do it without music we find . Then they may have a page turner which is somewhat risky I would think if they made a hash of it ?

The finest pure ear player I have ever seen and heard is Erroll Garner - bar none! A true ear player and keyboard master.

Alan (swingal)

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#1139090 - 07/16/07 06:41 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
193866 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 777
Loc: Manassas,Va
Dear swingal...Well, I guess this counts what I am about to tell you? Now 68 years old. When I at 23 years old I regretted not studing piano and I began serious classical piano studies for the first time. After 6 months still in the beginners phase I composed a piece of music that just came to me. I wrote it down from what I heard in my head. My piano teacher had her Master's Degree in Music Ed...piano as her instrument. I had the composition in my lesson book, she pulled it out and asked what is this? I told her I had she said,"Play this for me?" I did... She really got excited. She said, "How did you do this?" I told her and she said you cannot do this as I am your teacher and you play at best a 3 year level piano, mostly not. This is 10 year music it has classical style, I can tell which composer and it is perfectly academic with correct form. She continued to tell me that you not only played this in at 10 year level but you wrote it out at 10 year level... I cannot explain how I did this. You tell me? It was as if I was in a trance. I was going to sleep and the song came to me all at once and over and over again. I walked down to the piano and watched my hands go across the keys without my doing anything. I was so taken back by this. I wrote it down on manuscript paper... as though I had done this many times before. I never had... I would love this solved after all these years... My piano teacher said I was a reincarnation of a composer, she named him and I forgot who she told me as I was so overwhelmed and scared too.
The only true by ear outstanding piano player I know, a friend of mine, close, was offered a TV contract, bar room style piano ,like Joanne Castle, Lawrence Welk, type of piano. I can put you in touch with her. Never had a piano lesson in her life ... Never studied a book. All by ear. She will bring you to tears with her talent. True by ear talent. Please excuse spelling mistakes... Sandy B
_________________________
Sandra M. Boletchek 08/02/06

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#1139091 - 07/16/07 08:53 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Reaper978 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/08/05
Posts: 1325
I think everyone should learn how to read rudimentary music notation. Even if you're not very good at it, it's part of being a well-rounded musician. You've got to be able to make some kind of sense out of a written score.

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#1139092 - 07/16/07 09:16 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Rerun Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/07
Posts: 575
Loc: Louisiana
Hey Alan,

You can count me in.

I doubt that I have perfect or absolute pitch. I do hunt and peck to figure out all you describe as rhythm, chording, melody, etc..

I would say that picking up a bass line rhythm on a piano to duplicate some recording I've heard (be it a guitar or another type of instrument recording) is the most challenging part of it for me.

The shuffle and some other boogie bass lines; boom and double boom-chucks; the watkins roll; rolling tenths; and a few others, I'm starting to get a pretty good hold of. But there are some others I'm finding a hard time picking up on a piano. Mostly ones that were initially played by guitar.

I was going to put a link to one on youtube for you to tell me how to play it, but I see youtube took it down. I'll see if I can find it elsewhere.

Later gater.....
_________________________
Rerun

"Seat of the pants piano player" DMD







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#1139093 - 07/16/07 09:16 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
193866 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 777
Loc: Manassas,Va
I agree with you and so do the by ear piano players who cannot read music. I have known and talked with though the years.
They tell me they want to learn other styles and they cannot because they cannot read music. This is because their by ear is for one style, popular,or country,or ragtime, etc. they also tell me. Being able to read indeed makes for a well rounded piano player. Sandy B
_________________________
Sandra M. Boletchek 08/02/06

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#1139094 - 07/16/07 09:47 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Rerun Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/07
Posts: 575
Loc: Louisiana
Hi Sandra and Reaper (you slipped in there while I was typing),

Sight reading is way over my head I'm sorry to say. It must be great to be able to purchase the sheet music then just sit down and play it and be done with it. I think I'm wired up wrong : ).

You all amaze me with that ability......
_________________________
Rerun

"Seat of the pants piano player" DMD







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#1139095 - 07/16/07 10:15 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Rerun Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/07
Posts: 575
Loc: Louisiana
Ok Alan,

Or any others who may want to figure how to duplicate on piano what these three guys are playing on guitars as the bass run while Dean Martin is singing.

I can do it with double boom-chucks or shuffle but it still doesn't capture what I would like.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctLcjz5fNLw

Thanks ......
_________________________
Rerun

"Seat of the pants piano player" DMD







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#1139096 - 07/16/07 10:28 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Reaper978 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/08/05
Posts: 1325
 Quote:
Originally posted by Rerun:
Hi Sandra and Reaper (you slipped in there while I was typing),

Sight reading is way over my head I'm sorry to say. It must be great to be able to purchase the sheet music then just sit down and play it and be done with it. I think I'm wired up wrong : ).

You all amaze me with that ability...... [/b]
Actually, I often feel the same. Note my use of the word "rudimentary". I can only sight-read very basic music, though I can work out a more complicated score if I really try. For anything beyond beginner notation I slow down quite a bit.

I still see the importance of being literate in music, though.

Listening, imitating, and improvising is where I stand as far as advanced pianism goes with me. I have a very well-developed technique because of my obsession with practicing the scales and arpeggios, but my sight-reading is, for what it's worth, terrible. My strict performances of classical literature from a score never go beyond mediocre.

I think it's a mixture of starting late, having a short attention span, and having a differently wired brain, as you said.

-Colin

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#1139097 - 07/16/07 10:42 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Rerun Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/07
Posts: 575
Loc: Louisiana
Hey Colin,

Well, you've gotten my curiosity up a bit. I may give sight reading a go one of these days, as if I had adequate days left : ).

Thanks for diving into this thread, you bring up some great points.

Will ponder it while I sleep,I'm sure.....
_________________________
Rerun

"Seat of the pants piano player" DMD







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#1139098 - 07/16/07 11:20 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jotur Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5441
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
Well, for what it's worth, I read pretty well, but for much of what I'm doing currently it's a - bad habit. I played in band thru my teens, and had 2 years of piano and was pretty good at reading the notes, but I didn't play music until I started playing dance music with a couple of fiddles a little over 10 years ago. It annoys the dickens out of me to still have to have a chart (of chords/changes) in order to play along, so at the first of this year I just went cold turkey and told the other backers they'd just have to put up with me. So now I can sometimes pick up the chords after a couple of times thru, but if the sheet music has a lot of substitutions for the basic I-IV-V and everyone else is playing those I'm sure I sound awful. So if we're doing something for a gig I have to just memorize the changes because I still can't always hear them - I can hear that there *is* a change, but I can't tell you what it is or play it. Melodies are easier to pick up by ear for me, tho I can't always play them at speed by ear. And in folk music the sheet music for the melody is distinctly not the way the tune sounds, and the good musicians add ornaments and variations and impulses and phrasing on the fly. And reading the music just gets in the way of really learning to listen.

I do think that many people gravitate naturally towards being able to read easily or play by ear easily, but I definitely think musicians should be exposed to playing by ear. It is *tragic* \:D to be tied to sheet music if you want to play jigs, reels, waltzes, old-time, gospel, et al et al et al, with a bunch of fiddles, mandolins, guitars, etc. And music stands look dorky \:\) So reading music may come in handy sometime - I like Joplin - but for me the real music didn't start coming until I only had chord names in the left hand and it freed it to find its own runs and rhythms. It's the only reason that anything I do from sheet music has any real *music* to it at all - I've begun to put into my fingers and the music what I've heard listening to Bob Wills or Jerry Lee Lewis or whoever, and I never would have done that if all I ever did was read sheet music. It's a hard habit to break, but I'm getting there.

Cathy
_________________________

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#1139099 - 07/17/07 02:50 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Thanks for the input so far.

I must emphasis that I'm in no way saying non- reading is an option or even a good idea.

Classical or non-improvisational music is basically wrong to play other than as written, correct?

I have the greatest admiration for all 'proper' pianists, who read and memorize the score. However, nothing can alter how your brain is designed and it's a fact that some people like me have always had the means to play what is in the memory based on the music stored in the subconscious function of the brain. We see the keyboard as a sound producer and know what each key sounds like.

Singers read music and can produce that sound by their vocal chords,now that's clever! I cannot sing a note in tune.

Also it is not necessary to play in the specific key as default or composed when playing non serious music.

Indeed it's good practise to be able to play in other keys in popular or jazz. Comping to singers seems to cause the pianist to adapt in cases where the singer is off-key. Or need to have a slight tone variation.

I,m hoping to have a response from Kramer who also plays this way. Seen on the other topic of the 'Wow factor'

In simple music as one learns as a beginner, it's so difficult to overcome the urge to play the notes you know are correct. I found this out when I escorted my younger sister aged about 8 to the piano teacher. She would be practicing at home and I knew which note she would play next.

I don't think it's 'on' to start and learn to play by music if you are born with the strange ear method. Though very useful and worthwhile I'm sure.

It is an unusual thing but as I said, Erroll Garner could not read music at all, but went on his own way and made a fantastic career out of playing by this method. Cut short tragically at an early age of 55 in Jan.1977 dying of Angina.

If you take 'proper' taught sight reading pianists who then play a 'song' in their own jazz style, they have not written it down. So they too have learned to domineer the keyboard and play improvised music,in their style. They have memorised as non-reading pianists do. The end result is the same surely?

They did a TV program,called something like 'My marvelous brain' the other day, about a small boy aged about 5 or so upwards who could play classical music fantastically. It was based in the U.S.

This was said to be due to a certain type of brain that is different from normal. Don't ask me to describe it. Except that it's something to do with the lobes and their placement.

I cannot remember that much about him but he was introduced to Lang Lang and they together played a short piece of duet classic. The boy was then going to play at Carnigie Hall.

Alan (swingal)

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#1139100 - 07/17/07 11:19 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
glyptodont2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/26/07
Posts: 45
What is interesting is to read a piece of sheet music that appears to have been written by someone who plays by ear.

I am playing sheet music for "Jambolaya." The entire piece is based on just about four chords. They tend to repeat in patterns. It looks like someone took the melody line and put about three basic chord variants against it.

It sounds pretty quick and dirty, but it sounds pretty good actually and can be played very fast.

Still, if you want to honor this by calling it an arrangement, it is pretty weak at best-- just hack work for the market.

If a person were able to play by ear quite well, they would waste their money to purchase this particular item of sheet music.

I have the opposite problem. I can read music well, but have no improvisational ability.
_________________________
[Same person as former Glyptodont -- Some sort of system problem with forum.]

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#1139101 - 07/17/07 11:40 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
ktom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Somerset UK
"Classical or non-improvisational music is basically wrong to play other than as written, correct?"

A point that is more than pedantic (I hope) is that all notation is an approximation. "Classical" music might be the most precise notation, and you would generally play the written notes, but the timing, duration, volume and so on of those notes is not precisely defined by the notation. This is why two pianists will produce two legitimate but different versions from the same score. The only way to play exactly as somone else does is, paradoxically, by listening to them.. ie by ear.
Of course, for most people it is quicker to start with a score than to pick out a complex piece by ear.. but you will see recommendations in other threads that playing by ear is the better way to learn jazz pieces. In between is a range of different approaches. Personally, although I can read moderately well, my most useful learned skill is to play from a pad or lead sheet.. but this wouldnt be much good if I wanted to be a concert pianist. Better stop, I am getting boring:-)
_________________________
Steinway K - Kurzweil PC 88(wrecked and sold for spares) - Yamaha S90 - rhodes 760 - korg wavestation- Hammond XK1 etc..

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#1139102 - 07/17/07 11:58 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
mahlzeit Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/06
Posts: 1910
Loc: Netherlands
Swingal,

Because you're probably one of the oldest persons here and therefore have a *long* history of playing by ear, I was wondering if you would grace us with a recording or two of your favorite tunes? I am very curious as to what you sound like, considering that you're completely self-taught. \:\)
_________________________
No idea what chords you are playing? Reverse Chord Finder Pro will tell you!

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#1139103 - 07/17/07 04:27 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
I will get around to doing a recording sooner or later. I have a tape recorder and must remember to plug it in then forget its running, or I will not relax enough to the let the subconscious work at its best.

Alan (swingal)

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#1139104 - 07/17/07 04:38 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
193866 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 777
Loc: Manassas,Va
Dear Cathy, Sounds very good to me you could throw down the faked sheets etc.in such a short time. My brother had his band for 7 years, full time, keyboard, piano, before he could throw down the fake, lead sheets and play all by ear he admitted to me once. Sandy B
_________________________
Sandra M. Boletchek 08/02/06

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#1139105 - 07/18/07 02:05 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
To Reaper,

I think your improvisations are very interesting and highlights the great purpose of what a pianist receives into their sound senses, together with the emotional feelings that constitute our very soul.

Conversely,the sounds listeners of other people's renditions receive may well be different and have other reactions to the soul. We shall never know!

Without that difference, the world of music would be a dull place.

I have mentioned 'beat' as being essential to the jazz format and I particularly enjoy highly talented virtuoso performances such as Oscar Peterson's and his strict adherence to a solid beat. Sometimes he has to play chords at double speed to get the beat in,in time in a phrase.

Alan.

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#1139106 - 07/18/07 02:23 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
To rerun,

Sorry I missed your question on the Utube recording of 'Memories are made of This' by Dean Martin.

As they seem to use a rhythm comping on a sort of Latin-American beat, it should be possible to use the bass line with that same beat on the piano.

Alan

PS. just played it on my 'Fake' piano AKA the digital. It's in 'F' and the base can be added, not too hard after all.

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#1139107 - 07/18/07 07:53 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Rerun Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/07
Posts: 575
Loc: Louisiana
To Alan,

I'll delve into that bass line tonight, and thanks. Did you get my email response off of the forum?

Methinks my "Vista" email system has run aground again. Very few things run properly with MS Vista; it's becoming more apparent.

Thanks again....
_________________________
Rerun

"Seat of the pants piano player" DMD







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#1139108 - 07/18/07 10:42 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Hi! Rerun. no I didn't get an email from you, that is if you sent it to one of my 2 AOL email addresses. Or did you use the private message facility on this forum?

Perhaps I should look on the other forum where I first saw you.

Alan

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#1139109 - 07/18/07 04:12 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
193866 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 777
Loc: Manassas,Va
Dear Members, Recently I asked on our teacher's forum."Should we play classical piano as the composer intended?" This is how I was taught classical piano in the 1960's by two teachers who both had Master's in Music Ed and piano their instrument. I got back 30 pages and loved and appreciated every word. I am now returning to classical piano after many years away so I wanted to know their opinions and suggestions... If any of you want some info on this let me know. I printed every word. Sandy B
_________________________
Sandra M. Boletchek 08/02/06

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#1139110 - 07/21/07 10:36 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
193866 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 777
Loc: Manassas,Va
Floyd Cramer style piano... Does anyone play this style and could help me understand the theory of his style please? Sandy B
_________________________
Sandra M. Boletchek 08/02/06

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#1139111 - 07/21/07 10:39 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
193866 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 777
Loc: Manassas,Va
Sorry I meant to post this elsewhere senior moment I guess. Sandy B
_________________________
Sandra M. Boletchek 08/02/06

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#1139112 - 07/21/07 11:05 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
paul milando Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/02/06
Posts: 265
Loc: westfield Indiana
I play piano and many others instruments. I have
played with everybody from Dizzy Gillespie to
Donald Byrd and the Blackbirds. All by ear and sight.
Check out my site www.music-for-the-soul.com
I have a natural sense of pulse and I try to find
the right notes. I call it the Mother tone. I have an unorthodox style of playing the piano.
I grew up hearing and watching old Nicklelodeons
and trying to play 4 handed parts. I produce
BIO-SONIC cd's that help the balance the hemi-spheres of the brain. Playing the piano by ear is
harder than with your fingers \:\)
_________________________
Talking about music is like dancing about art. If the truth will set you free, what do prunes do?

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#1139113 - 07/21/07 06:34 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
ktom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Somerset UK
I had a look at the site - highly entertaining -thankyou. I guess it is my stupidity, but I couldn't find any music to listen to - please help me. As a former biologist (Cambridge University.. the scientific equivalent of Dizzy Gillespie, I guess), I would be particularly interested in listening to music "tuned to DNA resonance"..
_________________________
Steinway K - Kurzweil PC 88(wrecked and sold for spares) - Yamaha S90 - rhodes 760 - korg wavestation- Hammond XK1 etc..

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#1139114 - 07/22/07 01:25 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
To 193866,

quote;-Floyd Cramer style piano... Does anyone play this style and could help me understand the theory of his style please? Sandy B

Please could you help me hear his style I may have heard it but cannot remember.

Kind regards,

Alan (swingal)

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#1139115 - 07/22/07 07:03 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
ktom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Somerset UK
Alan - if you have access to youtube - search on his name and you will find several clips - in fact even easier - here is a link for you..
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IM2OJZn5Kkw
I think this is very distinctive of his style.
If you have any problem with the link, let me know
regards
tom
_________________________
Steinway K - Kurzweil PC 88(wrecked and sold for spares) - Yamaha S90 - rhodes 760 - korg wavestation- Hammond XK1 etc..

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#1139116 - 07/22/07 07:07 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
ktom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Somerset UK
PS- I just noticed we seem to have crossed threads here:)
Tom
_________________________
Steinway K - Kurzweil PC 88(wrecked and sold for spares) - Yamaha S90 - rhodes 760 - korg wavestation- Hammond XK1 etc..

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#1139117 - 07/22/07 08:28 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
rajoo_dup1 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/10/03
Posts: 17
Loc: india
HI, I AM RAJOO FROM INDIA.THIS FORUM IS REALY VERY INFORMATIVE TO ME. I AM ALSO INTERESTED IN BUYING A PAIR OF CM 30 CUBE MONITOR SPEAKER OF ROLAND FOR MY DP FP-5 OF ROLAND.I WOULD APRECIATE ANY COMMENTS/SUGGESTION REGARDING THIS UPGRADE.MY QUESTION IS WHAT IS DIFFERENCE BETWEEN POWERED SPEAKER OR STUDIO MONITOR OR REGULAR KEYBOARD SPEAKER? I WANT FOR MY PERSONAL PRACTICE PURPOSE AND FOR ROOM AREA APPX.225 SQ.FT. CM 30 CUBE IS 30 WATT POWER. WEATHER IT IS SUFFICIENT FOR MY ROOM AREA?I WILL GO FOR PAIR FOR STEREO.OR ANY R MONITOR? CM-30 HERE IN INDI AVAILABLE @US$350/- FOR PAIR.PL HELP ME AS I DONT HAVE CHOICE TO COMPARE WITH ANY OTHER SPEAKER.PL YR ADVICE AND SUGGESTION WILL HELP ME IN MY SELECTION. THANK U ALL IN ADVANCE AND PL NOTE I DONT KNOW ENGLISH WELL SO PL DO NOT MIND MY LANGUAGE.

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#1139118 - 07/22/07 08:34 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
rajoo_dup1 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/10/03
Posts: 17
Loc: india
HI I AM RAJOO FROM INDIA. I AM SORRY IT IS WRONGLY POSTED MY POST SO PL EXCUSE ME

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#1139119 - 07/25/07 04:51 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

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

I'd love to be totally pure like you...absolute pitch is something I definitely don't have \:\( .

But, I'm still in the process of learning how to play by ear (nearly 4 years now).

For the first year or so I used lead sheets to help me a lot...but, they seemed to hamper my progress and much of what I memorized back then is lost in the mist of time.

I rarely look at a lead sheet nowadays and haven't done for the past few years. There is still much for me to learn and many, many songs I still cannot figure out for the life of me that I dearly want to (grrr!).

But, I seem to be still making steady progress day by day with my "by ear playing", I have to say that I have good days and I have bad days but, I can literally play hundreds of songs now by ear and I dearly love it and as a result I seem to get more addicted to this darned "piano thang" by the day .

However, I still have this nagging inner obsession to play jazzier and in a more cocktail/lounge style (than I do presently) and this is one area where it seems to me you need a huge knowledge of scales mixed in with a whole heap of really complicated stuff (that I don't have).

I just wanted to ask you... can you pick up the jazzy sounds say that Doug McKenzie plays on his youtube videos (man I love the way that guy plays) and copy that without knowing the theory?

Take a look at "Laura" for instance:-

Doug McKenzie playing Laura in a way me soooo likey {{click}} \:\)

Where he explains everything that he does as he goes along (all of which goes woooosh completely over my head! ). Can you just pick what he plays there out in an instant and play it similarily to him or is that too tricky?


regards


Lee \:\)
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#1139120 - 07/26/07 06:15 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
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hello Lee,

You have picked a 'good' one here. Laura is very difficult to copy. I start on Eb and follow on from there. The theme is far from easy and this is why Doug McKenzie gives the help on the chords. Like you,they mean nothing to me either.

This song is full of what I think are minor key variations. It baffles many singers too. I have played along with an Erroll Garner recording of it which is OK for the general theme learning. Remarkably,he is not using one of his abstract keys this time!

I do not get too interested about playing this song. As it is very hard to play straight,let alone with jazz style added.

Yes, I find playing along a very good way to practice and it sharpens up the natural subconscious brain functions, as that is how I play.

Laura, is not often jazzed up, I can see why. It is more of a romantic ballad perhaps?

Regards,

Alan (swingal)

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#1139121 - 07/26/07 06:21 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
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ktom.

Thanks for your help. I have registered with youtube and when time allows which is a rare commodity in my muddled retirement will visit it more deeply.

I like Floyd Cramer too and his recordings are nice simple jazz with a good swing style.

Alan

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#1139122 - 07/26/07 08:11 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
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Hi Alan \:\)

Sorry it wasn't meant to sound like a test or anything \:\)

And maybe Laura was a bad example \:\(

All I wanted to know was are your ears good enough to create those jazzy chords without the theory.

The reason I was asking is because I have noticed that after learning to play by ear my ear is getting keener but, nowhere near keen enough to recreate the sounds Doug makes without having to learn the theory (learning theory is my major sticking point as I can't read music and is probably never going to happen to be honest)

And I suppose I was hoping that with all your years of playing that you could recreate those sounds not knowing the theory behind it

I'm guessing from what you say that you can do a pretty good job of it...which I think is rather kool if you can ...so maybe there's hope for me getting there someday without having to knuckle down and learn the theory?

Hope you get the recording thing sorted out soon cause I for one am bursting to hear you play and you'd be amazed how much can be picked up by questioning what you did and where if we get to listen to you play \:\) .


Lee \:\)
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#1139123 - 07/26/07 09:34 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
pianojazz Offline
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When you speak of creating those "jazzy chords", if you're like me, first you hear them (usually by listening to someone else playing them) - and they grab you in a certain way - I said to myself "Wow! That was Fantastic! What was that?" At the time I didn't know what it was - or what to call it - I just knew that I liked it - I wanted to hear more. I wanted to be able to play like that. As I listened more, I started trying to recreate those sounds - learning to recognize the sounds. Learning what to do to a chord to reproduce the sounds - how to voice the chords - what voices to add, what to leave out. Its at this point you begin to understand them - the theory part. It helps you organize your knowledge and your preferences. Then you start to learn to associate sounds with names - a m7b5 chord has a distinct sound - different from a m7b9 - totally different from a m7+9, which is totally different from a 7+5 chord - and on it goes. Its an evolutionary sort of thing. Enjoy the ride.
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#1139124 - 07/26/07 09:50 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Reaper978 Offline
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I was thinking of starting a style of music teaching which emphasizes the study of theory, technique, and improvisation rather than sight-reading and memorization of repertoire.

Perhaps a new breed of musicians could come of this.

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#1139125 - 07/26/07 11:32 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
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pianojazz...its a pity that you don't live next door


thanks guys


Lee \:\)
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#1139126 - 07/26/07 01:29 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
mahlzeit Offline
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Yeah, you don't need to able to read to understand theory, but examples are most easily given in sheet music notation. Now that webcams are so common, maybe we could make our own collection of lessons and put them on YouTube.
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#1139127 - 07/26/07 02:46 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
193866 Offline
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Dear Reaper978, The style 0f piano teaching you are considering has my vote. Most pianist go the tradional route, I did, to study the classics, etc. Some people do not want to study that many years. I know a piano pro who can play in all 12 keys , on command, he knows all advanced music theory. I studied with him for 6 months to learn gospel style piano... for my own fun. He cannot read a note of music. He made enough money as a full time performer that he paid for his beautiful home ,in full, in 7 years... on the Baptist Gospel Circuit, playing piano. Many piano talents to be developed who do not need classical training. Your idea has a market for certain... Sandy B
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#1139128 - 07/26/07 03:36 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Elssa Offline
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The best jazz teacher I ever had taught me a very specific jazz progression that helped immensely. It's the old ii-V-I but with a couple of twists so that its ii9-V13-IMaj7. Play the ii in first inversion, play the V as a 13th chord as 7,3,6 (or 7,9,3,6) and the I as a Maj9 in first inversion.

Key of C: dm9, G13, CMaj9

If you use the above inversions (with right hand),it should feel very comfortable to the hand with minimal movement - no jumping around with the chords. I still practice this progression in several keys and use it in a lot of songs. \:\)

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#1139129 - 07/27/07 02:24 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
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Good morning Lee and all.

Quote.

"All I wanted to know was are your ears good enough to create those jazzy chords without the theory." answer:- to a point. but only in style not precisely.

Quote:-
"The reason I was asking is because I have noticed that after learning to play by ear my ear is getting keener but, nowhere near keen enough to recreate the sounds Doug makes without having to learn the theory (learning theory is my major sticking point as I can't read music and is probably never going to happen to be honest)"

Well, without wanting to seem to be unusual in my abilities, the make up of my mental mind is not unique. Other people's brains are similar in ability to play from the sub-conscious. That is what I do.

Yes I can improvise. I don't know how. It's in the head and is natural in my brain design. I cannot, unfortunately sit down and give a public recital easily. I used to play piano at age 16 up in Pubs during the WW2 and then I was finding the popular music easy to play along to. The only downside to my ear playing is the need of no mental distractions, sound wise or people in the room.
OK, if they are in another room and not directly watching me. A silly situation but not that unusual perhaps.All in the mind again.

I bought a Kawai ES4 digital and boy does that make playing easier after 70 years of acoustic. Mainly because the fingering is sooooo' much more precise automatically. The instrument is light on muscle needs and takes away the skill needed to create sounds by the finger pressures. Plus there seem to be ways of rather cheating. However, the end result is super.

That is another thread I suppose.

No! Lee, you are not 'testing' me. Your questions are perfectly valid. I also wish you lived nearby. At least we don't live in the 'New world' where folk talk in the 1000's of miles.

Back to the question of individual ear players. This is 'subconscious mind' stuff and it appears that no two people are wired up the same.

Nor can they/we understand what other's brains do in the mind-set. Or in my way of mental abilities, can I describe exactly what goes on in my brain.

So apart from the main theme of playing the straight tune, the improvisation matter is made in the same way as Ella Fitzgerald does her scat singing; from the subconscious memory of sound recall. If you can sing it, so can you play it, yes?

Alan (swingal)

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#1139130 - 07/27/07 06:45 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
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Hi Alan \:\)

Thanks for trying to explain how you see/hear things (because you can just do it you'll always be waaay kool in my book )

As you know I am going through a process which is actually teaching me how to be able to do something similar to what you do naturally and I notice that a lot of what you say makes sense and I can relate to it now. I am getting closer which trust me gives me a thrill.

As you already know I couldn't pick a melody out to save my life in the beginning, couldn't tell if melody went up or down...now things are different sometimes my fingers just know where to go to pick out the melodies and sometimes say when asked for a request if I know the melody I can just do it on the fly...other times I just can't .

Although I have to admit I can't tell what key a song is in just by listening yet, only occasionally does it happen (like for instance recently I was pecking out "An Affair To Remember" I was automatically working it out in F which is the key it is in...now, when I do something like that it really stuns me ...but, these things don't happen every day (though its good to know they are happening more often so I get the feeling that I am progressing with this).

I get the feeling that as I keep trying to make these sounds my brain/fingers are going to get used to knowing how to produce more of them.

and yes I agree if I can sing it I can play it...

Though it seems I may have to learn to sing in chromatic runs to achieve it


Lee

thanks Elssa I'll try it out \:\)
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#1139131 - 07/27/07 07:02 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
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Hi Mahlzeit

 Quote:
Now that webcams are so common, maybe we could make our own collection of lessons and put them on YouTube.
Now that is a great idea


Lee \:D
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#1139132 - 07/27/07 09:49 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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Seaside Lee, it's too bad you don't want to get into the theory. You don't even need a lot of theory but the concept to jazz chords are wholly repeatable. It has to do with knowing when to add tension notes. In order to do this, you must be able to construct a chord and identify every interval, instantaneously.

Once you know these rules, you can jazzify anything, even playing by ear. But to me playing by ear is not just tone identification. To me it means identifying harmonic progressions and thus from that comes the ability to identify specific chords. For example, a ii-V-I progression. Knowing this (and hearing this) makes you understand what qualities you can substitute to each chord to make it crunchier. This is all a study of tension and release. In the example above, the "crunchy jazz sound" is placed on the V chord.

I think that understanding basic theory makes understanding music easier, especially for ear players. And I don't think it's that hard at all.
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#1139133 - 07/27/07 09:58 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Elssa:

Key of C: dm9, G13, CMaj9
[/b]
The problem is that this is just one variation and a pretty tame one at that. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to create tons of variations to this on the fly depending on what your mood dictates? That can only come from understanding voicings and knowing when you can use b9,9,#9,11,#11,b13,13 depending on chord function.

And knowing this is not dependent on ability to read music. It's just recognizing chords.

It's a lot of fun to know this.
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#1139134 - 07/27/07 10:30 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
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Hi jazzwee

to be honest I have actually learned quite a lot of theory a long the way and I can play rather well right now (although I have an unquenchable desire to play better and better ;\) )

I have a huge desire for the jazzier side (should I say the prettier side) of piano chords...so if theory is necessary then so be it

Definitely don't give up on me with regards to theory...I have a lot of free brain space now to devote to it. I can't read music...videos may be the way forward? as Mahlzeit says (because he knows a lot if not more of what I know)

Jazzwee if you can help any of us on that forum I mentioned above feel free to dig in and point us in the right direction...many heads are better than one....but be prepared to dumb it down to my level

Like for instance:-

 Quote:
That can only come from understanding voicings and knowing when you can use b9,9,#9,11,#11,b13,13 depending on chord function.
Q. So wheres the best place to start and to build from (in baby steps) to do this?


Lee \:\)
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#1139135 - 07/27/07 12:59 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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That's a great attitude Lee!

First step is to understand where you are in the scheme of things. Do you know the 1,3,5,7 interval of a chord? Do you know the 9,11,13 interval in a chord? Do you know what b9, #9, #11, b13 is?

There should be plenty of resources on the internet to explain that portion but otherwise tell me what you don't know. I'm patient.
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#1139136 - 07/27/07 01:07 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Elssa Offline
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Key of C: dm9, G13, CMaj9

-------------------------------------------------
"The problem is that this is just one variation and a pretty tame one at that."

I agree.. I should have said this is a good one to learn first, then when comfortable with it, practice it playing the G13 with a b9 and try putting a half-step before the CMaj9, so it's:

Key of C: dm9, G13b9, Db9, CMaj9

(The Db9 would be played in first inversion)

I use the flat 9ths all the time instead of plain dominant 7ths.

Seaside, I'm like you..No matter how much I learn, it's never enough! \:\)

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#1139137 - 07/27/07 07:31 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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Hi Elssa, all I meant is that it is often more useful to understand why it is done, then just memorize the mechanics. Your examples are great!

Lee,
The first premise is that chord "changes" can be heard in ones ear just by focusing on certain chord tones. Typically just the 3rd and 7th of the chord are enough to indicate chord quality. Although some chords like a m7b5 (half diminished) chord also need the b5/#11.

Given that in most cases only two notes need to be sounded to define a chord, that leaves other fingers to use tension notes that can add some crunch to a voicing.

Often little alteration is required of Maj 7 chords because these are supposed to be release chords so typically the only typical tension notes on it are 9, and 6/13 (replacing the maj 7th).

Minor chords are also seldom altered beyond adding a 9 (unless the tune is made up of moving minor chords).

The basic premise is that the V chord (or Dominant 7 chord, which could also appear as a diminished chord), have the most tension which propels one to a chord of release (typically a Maj 7 chord). Thus there is a large number of options on how to voice this chord and this is the main source of the "jazz" sound.

This requires a whole reinterpretation of how chords are represented and played (i.e. voiced) as we have a limited number of fingers.

A lot of this is sheer memorization so that instant replacement of chords is automatic. Once the basics are covered, one can then address reharmonization, which typically involves replacing some of the chords, mostly the Dominant 7, and sometimes the minor 7 chords with a completely different chord. The most common (but also the most expected) change is to alter the Dom 7 chord with its tritone substitute.

A lot of theory terms mentioned here.

So as a basic change to a typical tune, I would focus on changing all the dominant 7 chords so that one plays only the 3rd, the b7th and one other tension note like b9,#9,b13, 13. This minor change alone to one's playing will already bring out a little jazzier feel.
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#1139138 - 07/27/07 10:04 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
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Hi jazzwee

 Quote:
First step is to understand where you are in the scheme of things. Do you know the 1,3,5,7 interval of a chord?
yes

 Quote:
Do you know the 9,11,13 interval in a chord?
yes but I don't play in that many different keys confidently enough yet to know which notes those notes are (on the fly) in that many keys (sadly, I must confess I'm a bit of a slacker when it comes to scale work...ahem...any scale work to be honest)...however, I know the key of C inside out

 Quote:

Do you know what b9, #9, #11, b13 is?
no problemo

I know what diminished chords are, I know what augmented chords are, I know what sus chords are. I know what major chords are, what minor chords are, what maj 7ths are and what 7 chords are

 Quote:
but otherwise tell me what you don't know
yikes is that a trick question?? I need:-

For Seasides - Moon River {click here}

This was recorded for the February 2007 Adult beginners forum recital:-

Seasides version of "I\'ll be See-ing You" {click Here}

This was recorded for the May 2007 ABF recital (apologies for the strings they are a bit pants! (I know) because I can't figure how to record them separately in another track?

Seasides - Old man River {click here}

There, that should give you a rough idea of what I'm harping on about! ;\)

{{All played and arranged by ear by yours truly}}

regards


Lee
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#1139139 - 07/28/07 12:35 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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Great Lee!

It sounds like the left hand is arpeggiating the chord. Now normally, a typical chord is arpeggiated as 1,3,5,7, right?

Focusing only on the Dominant 7 chords, use 1, 3, 7 of the chord, then add 13. Forget the 5. Don't change anything else on any other chord for now.

Now as additional things to try, do the same thing but instead of 13 use b9, #9, or b13. In other words listen to the effect of the sound. This may mean that you arpeggiate starting either with the b7 of the chord instead of the root. Sometimes it's better to start with the 3rd of the chord. It depends on the chord.

You can also drop the root and use for example, both b9 and #9. Or use 9 and 13. Or use #9 and b13. Try it out and listen to what it sounds like.

So let's give a specific example so you know how to voice. In the key of C, the Dominant 7 will be a G7.

Here are the intervals for a G7 chord so you can verify
1 G
3 B
5 D
b7 F
b9 Ab
9 A
#9 Bb
11 C
#11 Db
b13 Eb
13 E

Again the important notes to always play are 3 and 7 (B, F). Root (G) is optional but make it the lowest note if you have spare fingers. Now add one to two tension notes to this and listen to the effect. Use lower fingers of the RH too to hit some of these notes. It is best to keep the LH and RH fairly close together.

It sounds to me like you're already using all fingers to make a full sound. It sounds great.

Just to summarize, start of with modifying only the G7 chord in key of C and leave everything else alone and listen to the effect.

Then let me know what happens.
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#1139140 - 07/28/07 05:06 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
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Kool, kool, KOOL

Let me try some of this next week...lets see if I can get my head around playing with this

This sounds like exactly the sort of thing I need.


Soon as I think I have a feel for it...I'll record something new...don't hold your breath but, in the words of Arnie..."I'll be baaaaack"


Lee \:D


Seems to me like I need to...erm... encourage/sway/entice/bribe/beg/ ;\) ...erm...force!
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#1139141 - 07/28/07 03:10 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jotur Offline
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I'm following this thread carefully - thanks, Lee for asking the questions, and thanks to all who are helping out with whatever observations, and certainly thanks to jazzwee for the time and well-thought-out suggestions - after the gig tonight when I have time to play around again I'm sure going to try out some of this stuff. I had just started using 7 chords anyplace they sounded even remotely useful, so this is great.

Cathy
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#1139142 - 07/29/07 02:22 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
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Hi all,

Message for Lee. If you get the CD titled:- 'Dick Hyman piano Ralph Sutton piano' CCD 4603 'Concord Duo Series' You may well find some inspiration for your urge to use more jazzy style to your playing.

There is a rendition of 'Old Man River', which I think you will find useful. Just keep repeating that recording and you will find it's in your subconscious brain.

If I were you I would not go the route of attempting to add modern piano jazz styles to the older traditional music, they may not sound suitable. In my personal view.

Alan

PS; If you can send me your email address via the private message facility I can contact you or you me easier.

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#1139143 - 07/29/07 02:59 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
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As A general comment on all of these replies, may I as the 'topic starter' just add a small comment.

When you see professional pianists playing,what ever the style of music, it's rare to see them reading. So the brain is quite capable of storing a huge amount of piano music. Take classical, the only person in the orchestra that does'nt have the sheet music is the pianist. Now why is that. Singers do not usually read the stave, only the words.

I surely believe,it is vital to memorize the sounds and relate them to the piano notes, that is what the brain needs saturation of.

So perhaps we could find someone on this topic who plays completely by normal means such as reading and practice and their quailifications, who can say how they play without music having learned it that way.

What memory function do they use. Look how the great pianists over the years played in concerts,
no score in front of them. Don't all good singers have to have a good pitch too? And they have no keys to look at compared to the pianist!

Alan (swingal)

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#1139144 - 07/29/07 09:15 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
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Registered: 06/19/04
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Hi Alan

is this the CD you mean?

Dick Hyman Ralph Sutton CD

Because if it is...I can't seem to find a copy to buy anywhere?? \:\(


Just one more thing

 Quote:
If I were you I would not go the route of attempting to add modern piano jazz styles to the older traditional music, they may not sound suitable. In my personal view.
I am not sure I quite understand what you mean...I was always of the thinking that the classics of the 30's,40's and 50's (AKA as "Standards" or "The Great American Songbook") songs that "Ella, Frank, Sammy, Dean, Bing & Co" sang were exactly the music that has been the target of all the greatest jazz pianists ever since. I was thinking they were exactly the type of the songs that were perfect for jazzing up

Lee \:\)

I've sent you my email addy...thanks
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#1139145 - 07/29/07 11:03 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by swingal:
If I were you I would not go the route of attempting to add modern piano jazz styles to the older traditional music, they may not sound suitable. In my personal view.
[/b]
I'd jazz up Twinkle Twinkle or Mary had a Little Lamb if anybody asked me to play that. And I certainly jazz up any Christmas tune.

I think it is a fun thing to try to jazz up anything, especially to see what it sounds like. Once it has been jazzed up, you've basically made a new sounding tune.
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#1139146 - 07/30/07 02:39 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
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Good morning, Lee and jazzwee.

Yes Lee, it is the CD you quote, must be out of production. Have you tried Amazon? They have second hand CD's too. Perhaps I could record that rendition of 'Old Man River' for you.

I stand corrected jazzwee.Perhaps I should re-phrase that comment of mine.Quote 'Originally posted by swingal:"If I were you I would not go the route of attempting to add modern piano jazz styles to the older traditional music, they may not sound suitable. In my personal view."

I will retract that statement as written.

In the reference of Laura, I do not think it easy to jazz up. Erroll Garner did do, but he played it slowly and added some embellishments that were quite acceptable. But Erroll Garner is a unique pianist,his style is his and only a perfect imitation seems to work.

The topic of jazzing up otherwise romantic or classical music is perhaps best left as just that; A New Topic?

Why not have a go on 'Greensleeves' which is one of my most disliked compositions. Joke?

Jaques Lossier did a good job on Bach I thought.

Have a nice day all.

Alan (swingal)

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#1139147 - 07/30/07 06:32 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
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Hi Alan

hey...you can record a version of that "Old Man River" for me, even if I do manage to track down that CD!! :p

My thoughts on "jazzing up a tune" are to learn how to add those lush, pretty, hair on the back of the neck tingly, cocktail style chord changes


hmmm, wonder if you can do that to Greensleeves?


Lee \:\)
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#1139148 - 07/30/07 12:13 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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I don't know Lee, referring to jazz chords as "cocktail style chord changes" is actually the opposite sound. ;\)

My experience in cocktail style playing (listening to it), is that it tends to focus on Rubato and flourishy chord arpeggios and runs. Dissonance as found in jazz chords would be typically absent. And I'm not even bringing up the absence of swing.

When I listen to some of the better jazz musicians play ballads, I find that they successfully interject some swing into the playing that just changes the tune in addition to just the dissonance of jazz. One tune that sticks to my head is how Kenny Werner did "My Romance".

So jazzyfying a tune will usually involve a change both in chords and in stylistic playing style.
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#1139149 - 07/30/07 12:19 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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 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
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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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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
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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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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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'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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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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 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 Offline
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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
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 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
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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
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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
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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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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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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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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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
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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
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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
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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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#1139179 - 08/11/07 04:41 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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Registered: 04/25/07
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Loc: So. California
Swingal, I understand where you are coming from. I've come from the guitar world where I knew chords and the rest came from my ears. Without theory, what I played came from diatonic notes (notes in the major scale of the tune) and realized later that I was mostly playing the pentatonic patterns I often heard.

Playing primarily in chord tones, and sticking to diatonic chord patterns (i.e. usually one scale), yes, it is possible to survive without theory and simply focus on other aspects of music like Rhythm and phrasing. Yes, I have a lot of Erroll Garner music and appreciate his phrasing a lot and his ability to play with the beat.

In modern jazz though, theory has provided a way to enhance the contrast between the chords of tension and release. This is the point of the "jazzy"/crunchy chord sounds or sounding outside. Theory is the basis of this particular sound effect and although most often recognized in Bill Evans, Coltrane, etc. It has been implemented since early Bebop by Parker/Dizzy/Monk/Powell. Theory was discussed heavily by face to face trial and error between musicians. So the sound was there just not the written explanation. That came later.

Unfortuntately, we cannot relive the moment that these geniuses had discussing music among themselves so except for understanding theory, there isn't much of substitute to playing modern jazz with modern voicings and improvisation styles. I personally cannot play like that without this knowledge.

If one could listen to me play in my early jazz studies compared to today (technical development aside), it will be obvious that there's a different sound. I happen to love it. Knowing how to reharmonize on the fly, add a little tension, know exactly which note may work or not work instantaneously with each chord, knowing how to go outside at times -- it's all fascinating.

It just puts my appreciation of music at a much higher plane and is quite exciting to discover, frankly.
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#1139180 - 08/13/07 06:49 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
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Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
jazzwee,

Many thanks for that explicit answer. I can understand it. I agree with that analysis too. We are all brain-designed individually and we all hear and sense sounds likewise too. Just my viewpoint of course.

Glad you have heard Erroll too, he did venture into improvisation of Bebop,on some of his early recordings.

In my view he was a musical genius. He was taken from us at a very early age 56, one of a twin ( Ernest) He came from a very musical family and did have some lessons on fingering etc. at about 5.

He was once advised by a fellow musician (not piano) to have some theory taught, and soon told by others, not to try that as it would ruin his natural talent, so he didn't.

I like your choice of piano. I had a Hamburg Steinway for 40 years but it needed a new soundboard etc; so I bought the present Bosie. I did love the S & S though. Erroll had a Baldwin at home later in his career. We never see those in England, or M&H either.

Regards Alan

swingal

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#1139181 - 08/13/07 07:35 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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Loc: So. California
Speaking of Erroll Garner, Alan, I just love how he plays behind the beat. He's one of the masters of that swing style. That's why I have his recordings -- to specifically listen to his swing. Fortunately in jazz there's so many angles to focus on. Focusing on swing is often as important as note selection.
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#1139182 - 09/14/07 02:38 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
hotkeys Offline
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Registered: 01/12/07
Posts: 788
Loc: Massapequa, NY
Alan,

I started learning piano, and the first song by ear was Auld Lang Syne, followed by the Theme from Romeo and Juliet. I am working on two songs outside of lessons; one is "Crying in the Rain" by the Everly Brothers (later re-recorded by A-ha) and My Girl (gone,gone gone) by Chilliwack, a Canadian Band. Those are my favourites.

Mark
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#1139183 - 09/16/07 03:42 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Matt H Offline
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Registered: 03/26/07
Posts: 170
Loc: Indiana
This is an interesting discussion, and I've learned a lot from the exchange here. I just wanted to add my two cents about theory.

I don't think there is any playing--especially improvising at a high level--without theory. Some musicians might not study theory formally, but if they play "chords," "runs," "arpeggios," and whatnot (and if they can talk about what they are doing on some level), then they understand music theory. Errol Garner may not have known all the theory that Coltrane and Evans knew, but he knew what he was doing surely. To say he didn't makes him sound like some kind of idiot savant.

I just think we have to be careful of buying into the stereotype of the unschooled musician as a natural-born, intuitive (or nonthinking) musician. This stereotype has haunted jazz musicians in particular. A lot of it has to do with race, I think, but also this romantic notion we have that music just pours out of the genius's soul.

Matt

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#1139184 - 09/16/07 06:25 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
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Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Matt,

May I suggest you read Erroll's Biography by James M Doran. I think it is mentioned somewhere in this topic.

I agree that musicians play "chords," "runs," "arpeggios," and so forth but they cannot talk about it in technical terms. This was quite apparent in the early days surely. This is not to say they may well have benefited (US spelling)with teaching. The fact is, some jazz players were not taught any theory.

Erroll most certainly knew what he was doing and he astounded all who came across him.

Erroll played what inspired him at the moment. He had full control of the piano. He never played the same piece the same way twice. it just came natural to his brain and he was master of the piano.

I hope you have seen his few live recordings like the DVD 'In Performance' two separate recordings on the same DVD.

To say the above does not imply anything remotely like 'an idiot savant'.

I have no thoughts in my mind that would suggest,quote :"I just think we have to be careful of buying into the stereotype of the musician as a natural-born, intuitive (or nonthinking) musician. This stereotype has haunted jazz musicians in particular. A lot of it has to do with race, I think, but also this romantic notion we have that music just pours out of the genius's soul."

Simply not the case at all.

Some of what Erroll played, has been transcribed, I have seen the book of some of his renditions. Of course this is rather over simplified for he never played the same song in the same style ,though close jn many ways.

I suppose Erroll's music would be very technical and if the score could be seen that would be obvious. It just happens that he could and did play by ear. Neither could he sing either.When you watch him play you can see the song is in his head and he almost wants to show us all how he is bringing the music from the mind to the keys.

Hope this is what you wanted me to say, but please ask more if in doubt still.

Alan (swingal)

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#1139185 - 09/16/07 08:30 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Matt H Offline
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Registered: 03/26/07
Posts: 170
Loc: Indiana
Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting anyone is a racist, just pointing out that the notion of the natural musician (vs. the intelligent, choice-making musician) is often associated with jazz.

Al, maybe I just don't understand what you mean by playing by ear. It sounds to me like magic.

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#1139186 - 09/16/07 09:29 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Hello Matt,

If you read through the replies on this topic some do play by ear 'jazzwee' for example.

One of the reasons I started this topic was because I wanted to see who else played by the ear method only. Incidentally I really think many wind instrument jazz players in the late 19th Century and early 20th played that way, specially in New Orleans (Have been there in Dec 06, fantastic enthusiasm, I loved it.)

If I may attempt to describe ear playing. It is a matter of having a strong pitch sense and a good memory of the 'song' or rendition. The music is in the subconscious brain and the pianist recalls this music from the sub-conscious mind and transfers it to the notes on the keyboard knowing the sounds all the scale gives and what various chords give out and variations therefrom as in improvisation. I'm sure someone else can explain it better.

It is no different from a classical pianist memorizing a complete work. They memorize the score I think. In the ear playing you memorize the sounds and have to know what to play on the keyboard to get the required sound. My understanding of playing by ear means simply that, its a memory thing.

I had hoped we might get a professional jazz player to explain what I'm trying to say.

All the best,

swingal

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#1139187 - 09/16/07 09:42 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Matt H Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/26/07
Posts: 170
Loc: Indiana
OK, but jazz musicians don't just recreate music they have heard. They improvise new sounds. You need more than good pitch and a good memory to do this. You need to know something about music. Jazzwee explained how understanding theory helps him do this. Even your own explanation mentions theoretical awareness of scales and chords. This is why I'm perplexed when you say you are 100% sure that Errol Garner didn't understand theory. If by this you simply mean that he didn't study theory and didn't read music, then I understand you. If you mean something else, then I don't.

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#1139188 - 09/17/07 06:32 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

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

quote:- "if by this you simply mean that he didn't study theory and didn't read music, then I understand you".

Yes that's exactly correct. He just learned it all by natural musical intuition. He mastered the keyboard and played what he felt would excite us all and it did and does. As I suppose most jazz pianists do similar actions in their improvisations.

To add a bit more, when playing jazz surely we anticipate the embellishments and impro's as part of the progression. This comes from the subconscious, a sort of very quick reaction from brain to fingers. I suppose it's a bit like reading further forward from the score than the hands are playing. I don't know.

This sort of analysis is very difficult to explain which is why I need help from others here.

Matt, have you seen any of Oscar Peterson's DVDs especially the 1977 Montreaux Concert? He is a masterful pianist and he did come from a fully trained classical pianist background.

We just cannot enter someone else's brain so I guess thats it.

Alan

PS I should add that if we are to include music like Keith Jarrett plays and other modern styles , yes theory is all, in fact it is almost mandatary.

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#1139189 - 09/20/07 06:03 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7060
Loc: So. California
Sometimes we discuss theory as some academic thing. But in the great times of jazz in the forties, these cats just got together and hashed things out. They would play a major seventh chord, and someone would say something like "listen to this..." as he hits the 9th and 13th of the chord. Yes, I happen to think of it is a 9th and 13th of the chord, but those cats heard it and duplicated it.

Some of these old guys are still around. I went to a Benny Golson gig and he spent a big portion of the time talking about the old days and how he and John Coltrane would work things out in his Mom's house. I've read this in books but it's good to hear it directly from the old masters.

So "ear training" and "theory" are not separate things in my mind. I use theory to remember what I hear and confirm what sounds good.

Sometimes I play some tune with a some unique chordal structure and I listen to what scale works with some chords. Then I go back and identify the scale by name. I could of course have not recalled it by name but by shape too. But recalling it by some label allows me to duplicate it in another key. So here's an example of "ear" dominating and "theory" coming later.

This is a fine line as we tend to think of theory as modes of major scales, melodic minor, etc.

But really, you can find out what sounds good to your ears and write it out for yourself as your own private theory. In the end, I bet the note selections aren't going to be far apart using ears vs. brain.

The only exceptions are probably diminished scales. I have a problem fully hearing how to apply diminished scales to improvs, especially non-chord tones. But theory here gives me the boundaries of where it fits. I think this is where the modern jazz sound comes in.
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#1139190 - 09/20/07 10:36 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Hello Jazzwee,

I grasp your point, of course and I have no doubt that theory is the heart and soul of modern jazz compositions. A few of us have never had lessons on theory or any thing at all relating to piano playing. We started by being shown which keys to play for a given sound. This was kids stuff like three blind mice and other simple little tunes.

Probably a rare thing to do today as many more homes have digital keyboards which are in my view far easier to master.

If you learn to play by ear at an early age and do it enough you master the scale and the relative sound each key makes. You are starting to climb the ladder as a pianist.

That was what I did. My mother taught me, as that was her way of playing too. I would be about 6 or 7 then. I was exposed to music a lot because we had a gramophone and dance band music was played.

Both my parents were on the 'Stage' in musical appearances and so rhythm was in my heart from an
early childhood.

So I just kept at the piano hour after hour I played and played using memorised music to pick out popular songs of the day.

By 16 I was playing in Pubs, Bars to you in U.S.for the customers to sing to. This was during the 2nd World War and nobody worried about your age then, life was far more at risk.This was in York where I was a apprentice motor engineer.

I wonder what sort of a piano player I was but I never got chucked out.....must have been a generous public?

So I gradually understand pitch as you do by accompiament, I remember how I would force the key on the majority and bring the off key singers in with the rest.

That was a long time ago but thats how I learned to have a reasonable pitch.

Now we have modern jazz which seems to require a good knowledge of theory, not only to play it but to appreciate it. My roots are firmly in the New Orleans style and at best the Oscar Peterson style datewise.

I'm sorry to say I cannot really appreciate modern day style of jazz, I do not dislike it but it doesn't light my fire. I note the nuances and theoretical play in the compositions but cannot get the vibes to connect. Guess I'm too stuck in the past.

Alan (swingal)

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#1139191 - 09/20/07 02:45 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

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

 Quote:
We started by being shown which keys to play for a given sound. This was kids stuff like three blind mice and other simple little tunes.
Nail on the head Alan ;\)

That's exactly how to learn how to play by ear as an adult too...you have to start with simple stuff first

I would imagine that most "by ear players" started as kids because children will fool around with nursery rhymes much longer than adults. Adults don't always have the patience to see that working on simple melodies trains you to understand complicted melodies more easily.

And as adults we want to get to play the really good stuff first!!


regards


Lee \:\)
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#1139192 - 09/20/07 04:14 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7060
Loc: So. California
Alan, if you learned your relative pitch well, I think you have in essence applied theory.

In the example I gave, of a major seventh chord, I recognize the additional effect of 9th and 13th on a chord. My ear verifies it. I'm sure you recognize too the added color of the D and A notes in a C chord. My labels are theory. Your ears will arrive at the same theory.

So I'm sure you're quite a player just from ears. And you and Errol Garner will have learned theory your way. Maybe you don't want to call it theory so we'll just say it's the tendencies of harmonies. The tendency of harmony to flow a certain way is universal.

As a previous guitar player with no theory knowledge, the tendencies of harmony was already apparent to my ears so the explanation that came later just confirmed what I already heard. Thus, I understand where you are coming from.

I get the feeling though that you have perfect pitch too, Alan. Is that true? Just from your description of tones.
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#1139193 - 09/20/07 04:50 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
Matt H Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/26/07
Posts: 170
Loc: Indiana
jazzwee, I think I was trying to make the same point you are making, but you obviously understand this much better than I do and explain it very well.

I agree with you that theory is not just something academic. It can be academic of course, but it is also very practical, basically our understanding of and ability to talk about what we are doing in music. I guess it doesn't matter if people want to call this theory or not.

I was trying to make the point (not well) that these older jazz musicians played with their intellect as well as with their ears or gut.

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#1139194 - 09/20/07 09:05 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
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Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7060
Loc: So. California
Matt H, I did understand that you were making that point.

Sometimes when people discuss theory vs. ear, I'm a little lost as to what constitutes theory. Is knowing what a chord it is considered theory (maj7, min7, dominant 7, diminished, augmented...)? Is knowing at least the letter name of each note on the piano considered theory?

I figured it's a basic way of communication among musicians and I don't consider it theory at all. But to a completely and solely ear based player, is there such a thing as a chord? Or is it 100% tone based with zero labeling?

I started out as an ear player and to me that meant I fully understood every basic chord and what is sounded like. To me, theory means modes, scales, and harmonic progression (discussed with labels), etc. This type of theory I did not know about when I was playing guitar. So hopefully we are all at the same level of definition when we talk about ear playing.

I personally think that it would be a disservice to oneself to not know the basic identifiers of music (notes and chords), regardless of any additional theory based knowledge. These I think are building blocks and without this basic terminology knowledge, multiple musicians cannot play together.
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#1139195 - 09/20/07 11:06 PM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
swingal Offline
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Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Yes Jazzwee I have to have absolute pitch otherwise the music would be incorrect,in error of sound. Though of course that applies usually when playing with other musicians which I don't. I play along with recorded music and can usually get the key correct.

I completely agree with you views on theory. This limits my chats with trained musicians as its all in the subconscious in my case. I can explain it only with a piano to hand. Yes my total theory is that of knowing the notes on the keyboard. Even that is a bit confusing when.Eb are the same note as D# and things like that.

Erroll Garner played in some strange keys and the bass players had a difficult time playing with him for that reason, he never cared nor knew what keys he was in. I will try and find what they were, its all in the Biography.

All the best,

Alan

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#1139196 - 09/21/07 04:12 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7060
Loc: So. California
swingal, you have a gift of perfect pitch so you have a fixed reference. The rest of us lowly people will have to rely on a "label" reference or it will be impossible!

I'm amazed at your description of playing by ear. You mean it at the TOTAL level. . Ear and nothing else. Isn't this quite rare?

All this time, I've understood ear playing as some level just below learning theory, but with a basic understanding of notes.

On the other hand, you can locate it on the keyboard so you have a visual reference though not by name.

I learned something new today.
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#1139197 - 09/24/07 01:13 AM Re: Pianists who cannot read.
onepianoplayer Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/23/07
Posts: 6
I've met some people who are professional players. One was a pianist at a fancy hotel who played in the foyer. He never had formal lessons, he said he'd always relied on playing by ear and of course listening to a lot of music.

Another was an extremely good band playing and singing exactly like the original recordings. One time I requested a song for the bamd to play and supplied them some scores. They admitted that they could not read music properly(!).

I have great admiration for these musicians as they have true passion for music.

Other musicians come to mind are Yanni and Irving Berlin who also never had formal lessons.

I myself love playing by ear but could not imagine not visualizing the notes or chords in my mind.

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