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#1294623 - 10/27/09 08:20 AM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: abminor]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
abminor,

I really don't know if anyone can play something that they don't already know somehow.. that's like you using a new word you never heard before.. everything we play is based on our experience.

To me it playing by ear is a combination of your relative pitch, and your muscle&aural memory. It's not about playing or composing "purely by ear" like that mozart clip from amadeus

I guess anything with coltrane changes is a good example.. if you ask a student to just play by ear, it's nearly impossible. Chances are you would have to work some stuff out, like patterns and transcriptions, and after you do that for a while, you start hearing different melody based on what you worked on. Tommy Flanagan wasn't able to improvise that well on it because the chord changes weren't familiar to him, it was outside of his experience at that time. If he was able to purely play by ear, all he needed to do was to come up with a melody on the spot , but he couldn't.

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#1294637 - 10/27/09 08:48 AM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: etcetra]
abminor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/11/08
Posts: 23
Well I'd say you're right but we don't want to confuse between music which is new to our ear and music which we haven't experienced yet on our instrument. I was more talking about the latter. Someone with a really great ear should be able to reproduce the latter provided he has the right technical level.

Of course you don't come up with brand new idea that comes from nowhere. It's always based on previous music you have heard. I think the difference is that trully great improvisers should be able to play musical ideas that seem foreign to their usual instrumental vocabulary provided that they have enough hearing experience of them.


Edited by abminor (10/27/09 08:56 AM)

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#1294750 - 10/27/09 11:52 AM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: abminor]
pianojazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 359
Loc: dearborn, mi
Quite a long time ago I asked my piano teacher how to improvize. He thought for a moment and then said:"there are two answers I can give you to that question, the theory one and the real one." He went on to say that the theory answer is the one you'll see in all the books. It talks about chords, scales, modes, leading tones, chord tones, substitutions, harmonizing, weak and strong metric position and we can spend a few years working on it. On the other hand, the "real one" goes like this - once you learn the tune and you are comfortable with the changes, when it's time to solo, what you want to do is hook-up with the river inside you (your mind's ear) and once you do that, the music will flow out of you and take you places you didn't know you could go. All you have to do is trust it. It's there. Just tap into it and away you go. Personally, after several years of experimentation, I far prefer the 2nd method.
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#1294783 - 10/27/09 12:35 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: pianojazz]
tremens, delirium Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/16/09
Posts: 155
Originally Posted By: pianojazz
On the other hand, the "real one" goes like this - once you learn the tune and you are comfortable with the changes, when it's time to solo, what you want to do is hook-up with the river inside you (your mind's ear) and once you do that, the music will flow out of you and take you places you didn't know you could go. All you have to do is trust it. It's there. Just tap into it and away you go. Personally, after several years of experimentation, I far prefer the 2nd method.


let's face it, the second method is the only method...

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#1294795 - 10/27/09 01:02 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: tremens, delirium]
Inlanding Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/05/09
Posts: 1744
Loc: Colorado
I recently read a wonderful book that I'll throw out to the group, by Kenny Werner.

It is called, Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within

Great ideas and insight on thinking a bit differently about your own creative capacities.

It's helped me a lot, given me lots of new tools, ways of seeing how I practice, perform - quite applicable as well to life itself.

Glen
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#1294807 - 10/27/09 01:19 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: Inlanding]
tremens, delirium Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/16/09
Posts: 155
I will quote Bill Maher part of one monologue which is right on here:

Quote:
I wouldn't recommend heroin, but it didn't hurt my record collection...


no more or less - everything is inside us already, we just need to free it. (not necessary with heroin though, weed is sometimes enough smile

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#1294867 - 10/27/09 02:39 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: tremens, delirium]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
I remember hearing this student trumpet player once.. she was by all means a beginner and she could only play the blues scale over blues. But for some reason she sounded good... there was something about her playing that made it sound fun, and she was playing her heart out. Her solo was way better than any of the solos by more advanced students.

So in that respect, playing from that space is important, and you can make great music with whatever ability you have. But I doubt that the trumpet player would be able to play complex bebop line just because she 'freed her music inside'. To do that she would have to transcribe, learn solos off records, and do her homework. The important thing is to keep your space through the learning process.

And transcribing/stealing ideas should be a natural process. I used to learn Beatles tune off records because I liked them so much and I wanted to play them... that desire came naturally and it s was fun figuring it out for myself. I am transcribing much more complex stuff now, but the desire is essentially the same.

So to say that you shouldn't transcribe or learn other people's music by ear because you will end up being a copycat, and you should "only" follow the music inside, is utterly ridiculous. If you really like something, isn't your first instinct to learn it? Why supress something as natural as curiosity? And if you don't have that kind of curiosity, why are you doing music in the first place?


Edited by etcetra (10/27/09 03:55 PM)

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#1294903 - 10/27/09 03:30 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: pianojazz]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
pianojazz

I also think its important to realize our teachers lived in a very different time with very different circumstances. My teachers lived in CA in the 70s, and they had a lot of oppertunity to hear great musicians. You could actually gig 5 nights a week and live on that. They were also surrounded by great musicians their age.. they had much better access to the music. They didn't create their own 'jazz' sound out of vacumn.

The problem is that most younger musicians now days don't have that kind of oppertunity..you are lucky if you are playing with a good player at a young age&gigging. Older players have the luxury of being able to hear&play with good players and have that infleunce them.. they can steal ideas from records and their friends They might not have books but they had abundant resource to get information.

So you have to take into the account that whatever they came up with 'by ear' or whatever music you set free 'within' has a lot do with their enviroment. If you grew up listening to someone like Warne Marsh every night, it would make sense that you'd come up with really cool stuff 'by ear', and you might not even realize where they came from.

But for most of us, the only place where we can absorb a genuine jazz sound is off records. We have to be much more deliberate in that respect.


Edited by etcetra (10/27/09 03:33 PM)

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#1294928 - 10/27/09 04:17 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: etcetra]
jazzwee Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7115
Loc: So. California
Originally Posted By: etcetra


Etc., yes I can hear this clearly, particularly the RH. I don't know the tune but I can tell what is being played. I've listened to this video before (it's in the AL thread). The changes are very similar to ATTYA. I guess there's only one way to skin a 2-5-1.

Admitedly, if I listened to this a year ago, I wouldn't have heard the same stuff and it would have seemed fast.

BTW - I'm working on this type of 2 handed approach and I just love it.
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#1294939 - 10/27/09 04:38 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: jazzwee]
pianojazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 359
Loc: dearborn, mi
etcetra - yes. One must be selective as to what one listens to. Listening is a huge part of playing good jazz - I've said many times, the best players are the best listeners. Interestingly, at least for me, after I play some simple Bach or Chopin (just casual reading), I find my ability to improvize somehow has improved - I seem to come up with better ideas. I can't begin to explain but it has a positive effect on my creativity. As far as listening - check out Pandora Internet radio at http://www.pandora.com/ - such a great source for jazz.
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#1295107 - 10/27/09 09:02 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: jazzwee]
etcetra Offline
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Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
jazzwee,

the lines he plays in the RH are pretty straight forward, its the rhythmic aspect of the tune that is very tricky. It takes a lot of work to be able to play that freely&over the barline over 5/4.

When I am working with metric modulation, I usually have to write stuff down and come up with exercises first. I think I mentioned in another post about playing 3/4 on RH accenting every 4 triplet and playing regular 4/4 bass line on LH against that.

I think I got that idea from listening to herbie and hearing my friends talk about it.. its a direct result of my curiosity and deliberate practicing. I would have never came up with that on my own if I was just 'playing by ear', or 'unlocking the music inside me'.

Sure you have to have the music come from you, but you practice for hours to make all the things you want happening in music yours. Bill Evans got a lot of his arranging/voicings ideas studying classical music like Ravel meticulously. Inspiration is important, but you can neglect the study part.

I know people like Mike Stern, Pat Metheny, Kenny Garrett all transcribe music to do this day... It's hard work but I don't see reasons not to do them.

I am getting the impression that some people think all you have to do is follow your ear/tap into the 'space'.. and they don't realize all the study and homework that goes into playing jazz.

"People make a mistake who think
that my art has come easily to me.
Nobody has devoted so much time
and thought to composition as I. There
is not a famous master whose music
I have not studied over and over."

Mozart


Edited by etcetra (10/27/09 09:13 PM)

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#1295113 - 10/27/09 09:20 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: pianojazz]
Swingin' Barb Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 889
Loc: North Carolina
Originally Posted By: pianojazz
As far as listening - check out Pandora Internet radio at http://www.pandora.com/ - such a great source for jazz.

pianojazz,

Thank you for the Pandora link. Excellent! No commercials -- WOW!! I just created an Ellis Marsalis station and a Bill Evans station. I'm in heaven!

Barb
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"Color tones, can't live without them"

To hear how I have progressed since 2006, check out: http://b.kane.home.mindspring.com

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#1295194 - 10/28/09 12:38 AM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: etcetra]
jazzwee Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7115
Loc: So. California
Originally Posted By: etcetra
jazzwee,

the lines he plays in the RH are pretty straight forward, its the rhythmic aspect of the tune that is very tricky. It takes a lot of work to be able to play that freely&over the barline over 5/4.


Well, there you go. I was thinking about that too. It's the rhythmic part that's always difficult particularly in jazz. If you have a good ear (and that's what we work on to develop), then that's the easy part.

Don't you think it is easy to recognize a bebop style from a non-bebop/modernish style? Bebop is so distinctive with those chromatic notes and grace notes ala-Oscar Peterson. Then you listen to Corea and all that's absent. Before I started piano, I had 35 years of guitar and listening and copying rock solos so I already had an ear. But jazz is different and required some training.

I think it is still hard to hear the exact notes in a McCoy Tyner style because of all the random large leaps with the pentatonics. But without trying to copy the exact notes, at least you know the pentatonics he uses so doing one's own random leaps and you get to sound like him too.

So typically, when I listen I look for a pattern that is distinctive of a style. I look at the intervals betwen notes. That guy Rueckert was mostly moving stepwise so it was easy (like a Bach melody I guess). My teacher uses an intervallic style that's unpredictable and I would listen to his records and say what's that? Good thing is that I can just ask him and I think that improved my hearing so much. I discovered that there's a "shape" to what he does. He knows what the shape sounds like in advance.

Anyway, I never found the urge to copy a solo note for note. I was more interested in being stylistically like the original. An example of this is when I play Donna Lee, I naturally start to play with Charlie Parker triplets and bebop chromatics and the up/down pattern. I'm not actually trying to copy an actual Bird line. Perhaps that's why I never actually transcribe. I gravitate towards studying structure.
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My Jazz Blog
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#1295223 - 10/28/09 02:34 AM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: jazzwee]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
jazzwee

yea, bebop is very distinct, so it's easy to pick it up in some ways. The McCoy/Chick Pentatonic stuff are concerned, it's definitely not as obvious. I got a lot of insight from transcribing kenny kirkland and actually identifying which key he actually transpose to as he plays out. .and how his left hand is moving along with it. There is definitely a 'logic' to it.

I transcribe something when I don't understand it and I want answers. I wish I had someone to go to and ask those things but I don't frown

I did actually learn Oscar Peterson's version of "night train" note by note.. up until the end of his solo.. for me it wasn't about figuring out which notes to play, but really digging into his sound and what makes it swing. It was fun discovering how he lays back/accent certain notes and give them character.. you start paying attention to all these minute details that you wouldn't otherwise.

I can say the something about Clare fischer.. he has a such a beautiful sound on the piano, and when I tried learning his arrangement by ear, I realized just how much control he has over the instrument.. he literally plays each note in a chord at different volume and bring out the right notes. That insight gave me something to aspire to.. something that I can spend the next decade developing.

All these things helps me to pay more attention to the finer aspect of sound and refine my ears.

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#1296542 - 10/30/09 09:56 AM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: etcetra]
tremens, delirium Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/16/09
Posts: 155
Originally Posted By: etcetra

the example you showed me was Mozart composing a choral piece with a full orchestra, how many people can compose an orchestral piece in their head?


you're still confusing things, I hear quite often whole orchestral arrangements in my head, that doesn't mean yet I know or care all notes I hear unless I need to write it down. That's another skill..

p.s.
again analogy to painting - when you see a picture do you know or care how many colors were used??? To know that you'd need to analyze, desect and lose perspective...

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#1296550 - 10/30/09 10:03 AM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: etcetra]
tremens, delirium Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/16/09
Posts: 155
Originally Posted By: etcetra
You are citing a movie as an example? Do you realize that the movie is a dramatization and the facts in it are heavily distorted?


do you have imagination (essential in improvisation) and can you not take everything literally?

Originally Posted By: etcetra

btw do you actually play jazz?


define jazz...

I play improvised music.

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#1296559 - 10/30/09 10:13 AM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: tremens, delirium]
mwf Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/11/06
Posts: 419
Loc: Peterborough, England
I cant understand how anyone cannot play by ear, when most people in the world are capable of humming or singing a piece they hear on the radio...whilst at work etc.. Its the same thing on piano, I used to listen to CD's/mp3's and just work out the notes eventually through a process of elimination you get the notes right, there are only semi-tones to get right on a piano, its not like you have to match a micro tone to each melody note someone sings for example.
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#1296592 - 10/30/09 11:16 AM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: mwf]
kevinb Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 1565
Originally Posted By: mwf
I cant understand how anyone cannot play by ear, when most people in the world are capable of humming or singing a piece they hear on the radio...whilst at work etc.. Its the same thing on piano, I used to listen to CD's/mp3's and just work out the notes eventually through a process of elimination you get the notes right, there are only semi-tones to get right on a piano, its not like you have to match a micro tone to each melody note someone sings for example.


It's one of those things that, if you can do it, it's hard to imagine other people being unable to do.

But I can tell you from experience that there are a great many people who can hum a tune but can't pick it out on a piano keyboard.

I suspect the problem is in the rapidity of error correction. People use their vocal apparatus a great deal (some more than others :)) and can adjust the pitch of sounds very rapidly. So if you sing the first two notes of a tune, and the second note does not appear to have the correct intervalic relationship with the first, you can correct the problem by a rapid pitch adjustment. But adjusting a wrong note on the piano is not so quite. If you play a note that is wrong my a couple of tones, by the time you've compensated by adjusting the note you're playing, your brain will have shifted the pitch centre so you've lost the idea of what the original note was.

That's just my guess, of course. But, whatever the explanation, and ability to translate remembered sounds into piano keypresses is not that common.

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#1296600 - 10/30/09 11:31 AM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: kevinb]
mwf Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/11/06
Posts: 419
Loc: Peterborough, England
Very good intelligent reply my friend, it makes sense when you put it that way, thanks for that.
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#1296625 - 10/30/09 12:05 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: kevinb]
tremens, delirium Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/16/09
Posts: 155
Originally Posted By: kevinb
[quote=mwf]
I suspect the problem is in the rapidity of error correction. People use their vocal apparatus a great deal (some more than others :)) and can adjust the pitch of sounds very rapidly. So if you sing the first two notes of a tune, and the second note does not appear to have the correct intervalic relationship with the first, you can correct the problem by a rapid pitch adjustment. But adjusting a wrong note on the piano is not so quite. If you play a note that is wrong my a couple of tones, by the time you've compensated by adjusting the note you're playing, your brain will have shifted the pitch centre so you've lost the idea of what the original note was.


you're right and here comes experience and memory into play.
When you know your instrument well, been playing long and have good memory you know how each key sounds in your head so there is no wandering when playing by ear.

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#1296635 - 10/30/09 12:36 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: tremens, delirium]
pianojazz Offline
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Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 359
Loc: dearborn, mi
The scope of this discussion is headed toward what it means to be a "Fully Developed" musician - in our case, piano players. IMHO this means one has coordinated the senses of sound, touch and sight (time also but I'll ignore that for now). By this I mean one can hear a note (or a chord) in one's head and produce that sound on the piano keyboard - much like one gets an idea and then speaks it aloud - and just as effortlessly. The translation from internal sound (the mind's ear) to the keyboard is effortless - second nature if you will. The Sight part enters the equation when one is reading music. When one has well developed reading chops, one looks at the music and hears it in their head (again, the mind's ear) At which point, they can already take the sound from the mind's ear to the keyboard effortlessly. Developing these skills, along with a sense of time, are the essence of musical study - of countless practice hours and listening. Odly enough, I've never seen this formally stated in any method book - at least that I'm aware of - I'll admitt that I have not looked hard but it should appear in every one ever published - in boldface print yet.
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#1296656 - 10/30/09 01:25 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: pianojazz]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
pianojazz,

When people improv, I don't think people are necessary trying to "hear" what's in their mind and playing them.. the process is much more intuitive. It's more like you are hearing this music coming out of you as it happens.

I am not really listening to myself like that when I play, I am listening to everything, I am listening to other players, in some ways I am just responding all these things I am hearing.

I think bird said something about you learning the changes and forgetting all that when you play.. if you have to think about "hearing music and translating it into your axe", then you really aren't playing in the moment. That's what you do at home when you are shedding.

I guess if you compare it to marshal arts.. well, you realize that you don't really have the time think about all your movements when you are in real combat situation.. your instinct should just take over.. it's almost as if you are watching yourself as things come out of you.. and in some ways it feels like its not really you doing these things.


tremens, delirium

Yes I do have imagination, but I still would insist that you give a real world example and not work of fiction. What you gave me was an example of a fantasy that non-musicians have about musicians. Do you know anyone who can do that? Why are you citing example of something you(or for that sake 90% of pro musicians) can't do?

Improvised music does not necessary=jazz. Just because you play east indian classical music and improvise on it, it doesn't mean you'll be able to play jazz and vice versa.


Have you ever played a jazz gig, played in a band or played in a jam session with good players? In other words, would anyone beside your self actually consider you a jazz player? If not why are you telling everyone how to play jazz when you don't really play it yourself?

mwf

yes people can work out the notes 'eventually', that's learning by ear.. but playing by ear can mean a lot of different things. Sure most of us can play simple melody we hear in our head, but can you hear 12-tone music and be able to play it on your instrument right away? Can you improvise an entire set worth of music like keith jarrett?

I know some jazz players who can actually improvise a 3-4 part figure.. they are able to do it because they have good ears, good chops, and they also spent considerable amount of time studying that music, through transcription, scores.. etc.

My understanding is that jazz players spend a lot of time 'learning by ear', so that they can just play what they know/their vocabulary effortlessly... so that you have much wider spectrum of ideas to work on. You study and practice your butt off so that you can develop the music in you.

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#1296662 - 10/30/09 01:32 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: etcetra]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
I also want to add that most great players have tons of notes they've written out in volume and volumes of notebooks. It might be stuff they liked hearing, transcriptions, exercises they made.. etc. My teachers literally have 100s if not 1000s of transcriptions/notes at their home

So I don't think jazz musicians are necessarily dissing theory entirely. Most great players have enough material at home to write a book about it. They just think that it wrong for student to go to theory first and not rely on ear.

Ideally you should have enough stuff worked out to the point where you can actually write a book on it.

Either way you have to work out what is going on musically and there is no other way around it.

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#1296684 - 10/30/09 02:11 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: etcetra]
tremens, delirium Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/16/09
Posts: 155
Originally Posted By: etcetra

Yes I do have imagination, but I still would insist that you give a real world example and not work of fiction. What you gave me was an example of a fantasy that non-musicians have about musicians. Do you know anyone who can do that? Why are you citing example of something you(or for that sake 90% of pro musicians) can't do?


gush I've already answered that question, yes - I know people with these skills, another words a real musicians and I repeat - DON'T CALL YOURSELF A PRO MUSICIAN IF YOU CAN'T DO IT!

p.s.
etcetra, I bet you're a young player and/or a women...
I rest my case.
wink

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#1296702 - 10/30/09 02:33 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: tremens, delirium]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
But you admitted that you can't composed like Mozart did in the film. So I guess you are a young player or a woman too? haha, so why are you giving jazz musicians advice on jazz when you can't do the stuff you claim pros do?

As far as I know NONE of my teachers are capable of hearing a symphony and writing it down on score right away like mozart did.. they usually have to spend hours on the piano to write it down. And they've played with people like Natalie Cole, Nancy Wilson..etc. People like Pat Metheny still have take time to transcribe, and actually learn to play that stuff in their axe, because they can't do it instantaneously. They can probably do it without their instruments, because they've done thoughts of transcriptions throughout their lifetime.

So can you tell me the name of the pro musician you are talking about, I would love to hear that guy play.Again, I would love to have you name just one jazz piano player now that "play by ear"as you call it.. I am sure I can dig a recording from youtube. As far as I know everyone 'plays by ear' just not the magical way that keith jarrett or mozart do it.

Yea, and I am student, just like everyone including Mozart is a student of music.. it's better than pretending like I know everything.

If you really do know your stuff like you claim, you really ought to be teaching seminars and playing at places like the Blue Note, Village Vangaurd..and shoe everyone else just how jazz is supposed to be played.. why aren't you?

After all, if you are willing to diss john clayton as being just a 'techincially efficient' player,then you must have the ability on your axe to back up that claim.


Edited by etcetra (10/30/09 03:32 PM)

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#1297205 - 10/31/09 12:34 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: etcetra]
jazzwee Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7115
Loc: So. California
etc., how much of what a "world-class player" plays by ear or not is quite an interesting question. It seems clear to me from the ones I know, that the degree of creativity (versus accumulation and application of a jazz vocabulary) seems to be proportional to one's level.

I think the lowly people learning to improvise (like myself) probably use a larger proportion of vocabulary (however that's accumulated). The top most players of the world like the Keith Jarretts and Brad Mehldaus are definitely more original. Extrapolate from there the next level down of jazz artists.

I was having a chat with my jazz teacher at my last lesson on this and let me make clear what I already said a lot earlier in this thread. It's not just the notes. The notes themselves are easy. There's not that many poassibilities right? Most any player will typically pick from 7 notes or less per chord with a bias towards 3rd and 7th. This is a fact. I'm sure your transcriptions verify that. I can hear that.

Whole books have been written based on these concepts "Forward Motion", "Linear Harmony - Bob Ligon", "Goal Notes - Shelly Berg", etc. So the notes is never a mystery. Neither is it a mystery that often when you hear something that sounds unique, it is often a SINGLE NOTE out of the expected scale. Like the #11 on a Maj7. It is also no great mystery that most melodies are stepwise movements and are easy to hear.

So if it's all so easy, what's the challenge? IT'S ALL RHYTHMIC MAN. It may take me a lifetime to figure out all the rhythmic variations. Or another aspect of this is creativity uptempo.

I've sort of reduced my focus from the actual notes. I think that's what you're doing too with your 3 against 4 transcribing and so on.

That's why playing by ear is not such a big to do for a competent musician. If you play it slowly enough you could probably be as creative as Keith Jarrett right? Could I be as creative at 250bpm? smile I've tried and I can admit that I'm not. smile smile
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#1297275 - 10/31/09 02:45 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: jazzwee]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
jazzwee,

I agree that the ear part if pretty straight-forward in jazz. We all learn to use the bebop vocabulary, and we all know how b9 #9 and all those extensions work. Rhythm on the other hand, is not as straight forward. schools don't do nearly enough on rhythm.

I am transcribing compositions by Ben Wendell, Tigran Hamasyan.. etc and the biggest challenge is figuring out the rhythm. They are doing all this rhythmic displacement over odd meter, or sometimes the meter changes constantly.. or you have rhythm section and the head playing different meters.. its a lot of headache to figure out.. but I guess that's what makes the cutting edge sound in jazz right now.

I was listening to Brad Mehldau doing different takes of the same songs.. I am guessing if you were to see him play every day, you will soon discover that he is doing a lot of the same things.. he is drawing from pool of ideas he worked out in a tune and they come out slightly differently at different spot each time..
So you kind of have to take into account that Brad Mehldau sounds more creative to us because his sound is new to us.

I remember talking to Ron Stout, and how he was working on an entire solo made of just quotes from another tune while he was on the road.

Here's a link to his solos. He plays incredibly over body and soul changes.

http://www.lastudiomusicians.net/ronstouttributepage.htm

You would think someone of that caliber can just hear "all those quotes in his head" and just play them spontaneously, but he actually had to work that out in practice.

I don't think the creativity is in coming up with completely new things, its in how you use what you know to make something meaningful..to actually say something with it. You can play all the right notes you intend to in your head, but that won't mean anything if you aren't communicating anything with it.


Edited by etcetra (10/31/09 04:14 PM)

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#1297366 - 10/31/09 06:39 PM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: etcetra]
jazzwee Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7115
Loc: So. California
etc., like I said, I have a little different opportunity because I can just ask in person. You'd be suprised how much of it is spontaneous at that level. It's almost like thoughts of theory/music structure are out the window. They are basically listening to themselves play.

Honestly, I didn't believe this before but it's been stated to me many times before that at that level, they are making the vocabulary. Now of course, we both understand that there's a structure underpinning all this. All the concepts of chord/scales/harmony are so embedded in their ears that that makes up the foundation of everything they do. Similarly, Brad Mehldau's rhythmic practice and LH practice makes what he is. But I'm talking about creativity within one's own framework.

In comparison though, when you and I play, (and even you delirium), I'm sure we're more limited to what we heard before or practiced. And that can vary. Sometimes I consciously am able to make melodies. But sometimes I get lazy and I know it. For example, when practicing LH lines, the RH is on automatic and I have no idea what's coming out from it. Is that muscle memory? I suppose it's possible.

All I am saying that the top players, in their worst days can put more creativity and originality to it then we regular people in our best days. So there's more 'ear' to it than you think.

On the other hand, it is also revealing that mediocre players can sound authentic if they play within their practiced realms, like those who practice pre-written solos. I personally shoot for the full 'art' that it can be. Like what Jarrett talks about in his Improvisation interview.
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#1297500 - 11/01/09 12:06 AM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: jazzwee]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
I guess my experience is somewhat the opposite... I realized just how much of the solo is worked out beforehand even among the best players. I've heard Bill Evans and Kenny Werner do like 8-16 measures worth of stuff the same note-by-note on different takes. There is so much pre-arranging going on that only becomes apparent if you listen to them regularly.

I even read about how Oscar Peterson used to practice his fingerings before gigs.. and some people don't really like his playing because you already know what kind of stuff he is going to play. But I love listening to him for very different reasons than someone like Brad Mehldau... its his feel that makes the music exciting.

For me I don't think the creativity is about the notes per-se but everything else thats going on in the music.. like interaction between other musicians. When you play with good players, they can really take you places.
Sometimes its more about the feel and telling a story than making up new language.

I am not saying these guys aren't playing by ear, they do, but that the reason they can play like that is because they learned so much music by ear. They must have worked out 100s if not 1000s of transcriptions, arrangement, voicings in their hands.


I remember reading about Miles Davis asked Keith Jarrett "how can you just come up with stuff like that??" So I guess what Jarrett does is beyond even someone like Miles. after all how many people prepares a concert by not practicing for weeks in order to keep his ideas fresh?


Edited by etcetra (11/01/09 12:22 AM)

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#1297502 - 11/01/09 12:20 AM Re: Playing by Ear [Re: etcetra]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
Ear is important, but I am getting the impression that what Gyro and other people mean by it is totally different than what jazz musicians mean by it. When my teachers say learn by ear and get out of books.. they meant that if I am learning a new tune like Airegin, don't go to lead sheets.. learn the melody and chords to the tune on the instrument without written music in front of you. It does take more work to learn that way but you learn so much more doing it that way.

I try to learn everything by ear that way.. the solo is not too difficult,like Bobby Timmons solo on Moanin, I can learn it without having to write it down. And I get a lot out of playing along with the record note-by-note.

If it's a difficult solo/song like Brad Mehldau's solo, I have to write it down and figure out whats going on. Chances are you wont hear the subtlety just by listening to it. He does a lot of accenting every 4th triplet, but he starts in the different parts of the triplet, which makes the time seem even more obscure. I wouldn't have figure that out unless I wrote it down and analyzed it.

So in my opinion there is a learning aspect to the whole playing by ear thing that people seem to neglect.

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