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#1142477 - 03/01/07 10:29 AM " . . . You CAN'T play it that way of course."
Glyptodont Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/19/05
Posts: 377
Loc: Wisconsin
For some while I have amused myself by purchasing old sheet music in antique stores for the purpose of playing it.

I have just been playing "Singing the Blues," an old top ten hit recorded by Guy Mitchell many years ago.

This is not jazz or blues so much as top ten, but the sheet music definitely has some jazzy or bluesy flavor to it -- syncopations, setting the left hand beats off of (not with) the right hand beats, and so on.

My teacher praised me -- she liked the way I played it. She pointed to a couple of measures with all eighth notes in the right hand, and said, "of course, you CAN'T play it exactly as written." Referring to the timing, I think.

The idea is, you have to get a "pulse" or a certain "flair" to the music, and some of that has to be instinctive -- you can't really convey it by strict musical score values (e.g., value of eighth note, etc). If you play it metronome regular, it will sound flat.

The way I played it, I just remembered how it sounded during my high-school years, when it was on the radio all the time.

Playing popular music, do you have to go a little beyond the strict values on the page?

As a "converted" classical player, this is rather new to me, so would enjoy any feedback or comments.
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#1142478 - 03/01/07 11:00 AM Re: " . . . You CAN'T play it that way of course."
U S A P T Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/20/06
Posts: 1645
Loc: An Indiana University
IN popular music you SHOULD feel okay with going beyond the strict note values on the page.

Think of that song that Dolly Parton did called "I will always love you."

had that song always been sung the way she sang it it would have likely faded into obscurity.

But Whitney Houston got hold of it and made it a smash in that movie "The Bodyguard."

Since Dolly wrote it, she made a fortune off the royalties and Whitney made a fortune singing it and the whole world gained more music.

Who knows? Maybe your version is better?
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#1142479 - 03/01/07 11:19 AM Re: " . . . You CAN'T play it that way of course."
InAllKeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/06
Posts: 20
Loc: Elizabeth, NJ
When I was a boy we had an old Hallet & Davis upright. I learned everything off records (if I had them), the radio and even the television on a few occasions. It was funny, because the upright was so tall and here I am this 9-year old, learning the song with the record-player on the top of the piano. I would try to learn the song as exact as I could from the record. It could be the Beatles, Elvis, Sinatra, old Motown, whatever was popular at the time (we're talkin' early 60s thru about 1971 or '72 when we got rid of the old girl). Trouble was whenever I managed to get the sheet music for a popular song, I would always be disappointed because almost without variation the sheet-music was never exactly as you heard it on the recording. So after I got better at reading I would just work from the chord progressions and eventually work out the melody. If I could learn a melody from the record or radio, I wouldn't even bother with the sheet-music.
I can still remember learning songs like "Hey Jude", Penny Lane, "Louie Louie" and "Tighten Up" right from the radio or record. More difficult songs like "Georgia On my Mind", "The Alley Cat", "It's Too Late Baby", and "American Pie" I would get the sheet-music and work from the chords until I could get as close as possible to the recording. I did take classical lessons for about 2 years when I was 9 and 10 but the instructor informed my mom in so many words that she was wasting her money and suggested I take traditional "popular piano" lessons instead. By the time I was 11 or 12 I could easily play most of the popular music of the day from the recordings or by ear and so I didn't always have to rely on the sheet-music, which was often incorrectly written anyway. And I do the same today --- if I need to learn a piece and get the recording (or just listen to it) get the basic chords down and then work in all the melody lines and busy stuff. Today I use fake books and high-quality arrangement books like Dan Coates and Lou Stein for all my pop music and standards.

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#1142480 - 03/01/07 11:26 AM Re: " . . . You CAN'T play it that way of course."
kokomo61 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 678
Loc: Herndon, VA
I attended a guitar festival in CA a few years ago, and sat in on a session with Martin Simpson . He was talking with another guitarist about a song he was writing based on some ancient folk tale/poem. The other guitarist said - "You can't play it - it's got too many beats for the measure." Simpson replied - "No....YOU can't play it", and proceeded to play just that phrase....
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#1142481 - 03/01/07 11:27 AM Re: " . . . You CAN'T play it that way of course."
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21923
Loc: Oakland
 Quote:
IN popular music you SHOULD feel okay with going beyond the strict note values on the page.
In ALL music you SHOULD feel okay with going beyond the strict note values on the page. That is what makes notes into music.
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#1142482 - 03/01/07 11:57 AM Re: " . . . You CAN'T play it that way of course."
Liverpool_poet Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Liverpool-Capital of culture 2...
but don't you think you should play it as it's written first?

I think it was Billy Joel who said something like "read the book, learn it then throw it away"

I think improvisation is good but you should learn it the correct way first before you throw the book away.

Your teacher is paid to give you advice though so I'd say listen to your teacher!?
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#1142483 - 03/01/07 01:00 PM Re: " . . . You CAN'T play it that way of course."
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3191
 Quote:
Originally posted by Liverpool_poet:
but don't you think you should play it as it's written first?

I think it was Billy Joel who said something like "read the book, learn it then throw it away"

I think improvisation is good but you should learn it the correct way first before you throw the book away.

Your teacher is paid to give you advice though so I'd say listen to your teacher!? [/b]
"Play as its written' would be fine if the way it is written translates clearly into how the song originally sounds.

That works pretty good for Classical music, but not always, for which we have things like "Tempo Rubato" and the "Fermata" to alter the rhythm and feel of a piece.

Unfortunately, a lot of modern music does not adapt well to traditional notation, because the "swing" of the piece does not translate well, if at all.

So as an above poster said, written music is useful for learning the chord changes (think Georgia), but often not at all helpful for learning the rhythmic feel of the piece.

So "playing it as its written first" means one should learn a series of rhythmic mistakes first, then un-learn those mistakes so as to play the piece properly! Yikes!
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#1142484 - 03/01/07 01:21 PM Re: " . . . You CAN'T play it that way of course."
Liverpool_poet Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Liverpool-Capital of culture 2...
 Quote:
Originally posted by rocket88:
[QUOTE] written music is useful for learning the chord changes (think Georgia), but often not at all helpful for learning the rhythmic feel of the piece.

[/b]
isn't that what time signatures and crotchets, quavers and minims, slurs and the multitude of other music notation is for etc? To convey the rhythm? How can something not be 'translatable' into sheet music?

I think maybe this topic is too advanced for me, I'm only a beginner! \:\)
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#1142485 - 03/01/07 02:49 PM Re: " . . . You CAN'T play it that way of course."
dk21208 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/29/05
Posts: 339
Loc: FL
I don't think it is so much that some music can't be traslated into notation, but that to do so would be tedious. If the whole song is supposed to be played with a swing eighth rhythm it takes a lot less time to write that as a note at the top of the sheet instead of properly notating it throughout the music. As a player this also improves the readability of the music.

As a side note I see nothing wrong with learning music as written before adapting it to the way it was intended. It gives you a chance to get the notes under your fingers and be comfortable before letting loose with a swinging beat. Just be aware of whether using that technic actually promotes effective learning of the music or as rocket88 suggests it becomes an extra step in the learning process that impedes progress. I imagine we all fall somewhere differently in that learning spectrum.
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Dean

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#1142486 - 03/01/07 03:18 PM Re: " . . . You CAN'T play it that way of course."
Ted Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/03/02
Posts: 1518
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
It seems to me that written notation is an approximate way of visually representing sounds for purposes of communication. Music itself is sound and its effect on the brain; music is not marks on paper. It is to be expected that any pictorial representation of sound will have severe limitations. In the case of conventional notation, these lie mostly in the area of rhythm.

It is possible, of course, to create music using the mental jelly-mould of notation and to gear one's aesthetic to the mostly Western assumption that a written score actually is the end product, that is to say it constitutes music itself. The Eastern traditions, to a certain extent jazz, and more recently people such as Jarrett, operate in a completely different way. The notation of such improvised sound can certainly be attempted for the purpose of enabling other people to play it. However, unless the improvised sound happens to possess at least some horizontal regularity, i.e. has conveniently writable properties, the whole exercise is likely to be extremely taxing for the writer and next to totally ambiguous for the reader and player.

For large areas of conventional music, notation is a good approximation to what is intended provided the player is familiar with accepted mannerisms of style. Just how important this collective agreement is becomes startlingly obvious, even in the relatively simple case of classical music, when a romantic work is keyed into computer music software. If you key in something like Fantasie Impromptu, which has extremely simple notational form, and play it back, it will sound terrible. In order to make it sound anywhere near decent, you have to do so much dynamic tweaking that the exercise is more trouble than it is worth.

On the other hand, if you key in a Bach fugue or Maple Leaf Rag, the results will sound all right - not to the level of a good player, but not bad all the same - even without any tweaking. This is because the musical effect of some works lies much closer to notational form than that of others.

So to return to the original poster's question, some musical sounds "fit" notation better than others. In the case of those idioms which can only be crudely notated, we are heavily reliant on what we have heard, what we know of musical traditions, if any, and on our own musical intuition.
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"It is inadvisable to decline a dinner invitation from a plump woman." - Fred Hollows

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#1142487 - 03/01/07 06:51 PM Re: " . . . You CAN'T play it that way of course."
Albanypark38 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/29/05
Posts: 56
USAPIANO TRUCKER

ARE YOU STILL HERE, GET A LIFE.

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#1142488 - 03/06/07 03:58 PM Re: " . . . You CAN'T play it that way of course."
Vandy Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/05/07
Posts: 7
Loc: Durham, NC USA
Hello, All.

Hmmm. What an interesting topic.

I can remember my piano teacher teaching me (lo, these many (46) years ago), "Now, Gary, you must observe the note value and structure of the music and not allow the rhythm to carry you off track!". And, so, I learned to _____ P - L - A - Y _____ T - H - E _____ M - U - S - I - C _____ A - S _____ W - R - I - T - T - E - N.

Then, some years later, in a high school music theory class, I learned that it is okay to "feel" the rhythm of a piece and let said rhythm "color" your interpretation of a given piece.

Since then, I've had the freedom to first learn a piece note-for-note and THEN play my interpretation of it based on the where the rhythm takes me.

This is espcially useful to me when doing what I refer to as "goofing" on the piano. That is, allowing my hands to create a chord progression (the old I - IV - V - I with blues, jazz and classical inventions mixed in) and mix a melody in between the chording. (is that a word?)

Sometimes, it just feels good to "goof" and let the wonder and joy of the music determine what path you take -- whether you are playing your own composition or interpreting one of the master's compositions.

Regards,

Gary
_________________________
In the end you will see,
You is you and me is me.
© May 29, 1980

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