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Thread: Endless Performance

  1. #1
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    Endless Performance

    I was having a conversation with one of my "students" yesterday, and immediately thought of a million threads here at iBM.

    I was explaining to him that there are four categories of music. Here they are:

    1) Music you enjoy listening to
    2) Music you enjoy performing on an instrument
    3) Music you are actually good at performing
    4) Music that is irrelevant to you

    A lot of people take years to discover that 1,2, and 3 are different. I figured I'd save him some time by explaining it all. Anyway, while I was explaining it, I couldn't help but think of the endless parade of threads here wherein kids are desperate to play 16'th notes at 600 beats per minute, or people are otherwise obsessing on things which don't bear obsession (unless they do).

    The last time I talked to a guy who was engrossed with "perfect pitch" or blazing speed or some other pure technique issue told me that his favorite music was Paginini, Bach, etc. But when I looked in his car, the CD's on the seat were Linkin Park and Guns and Roses.

    I know a lot of guys who try to hammer square pegs into round holes. Once one susses out the music that goes into 1,2, and 3, things become a lot easier. Spend time pursuing #2 when playing at home. Only do #3 for an audience, and never ever apologize or lie about #1. Pretty simple, really. If you try to force music into a category that doesn't belong, you'll only be miserable or waste time (and possibly look like an idiot).
    "If a child learns which is jay and which is sparrow, he'll no longer see birds nor hear them sing."

  2. #2
    Registered User bluesking's Avatar
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    That tickles me. I have had experience with various neoclassically obsessed guitarists and I find them to be an odd breed.

    As you say, Bach features frequently in conversation, but AC/DC is usually found in the record collection. Now I love AC/DC, and I am not much of a classical music fan.

    I think a lot of people feel sad that rock music is considered to be "low brow" and seek to enhance their reputation using their tastes as a lever. I never understood why anyone would do this, especially by focusing on Bach (who is often seen to be mechanical by many classical afficionados).

    On the rare occasions I listen to classical music I enjoy a bit of Rachmaninov or perhaps Wagner. It is hard to enjoy classical music for me, but I do enjoy certain aspects. My main gripe is that I often miss the driving rhythm and percusive aspects of "pop" (due to the very driving rhythmical aspects of Wagner perhaps I am not the only one). But then I do approach it with a different ear. I have never tried to play Rachmaninov piano concertos on my electric guitars and see no reason to do so. Yes I know I could learn something, but I could learn more (personally useful) stuff from transcribing another Steely Dan song.

    So I think our self-image as electric guitarists can be woefully low. We want to be thought of as "serious musicians" and our musical tastes are guided by this. I like the complex harmonies and criptic lyrics of Steely Dan who a lot of people see as a slightly pompous band. Other guitarists like Bach for the frisson they get when they imagine themselves to be "disciplined classical musicians". Ironically though, I doubt Bach himself was as engrossed in BPMs as many of his neo-accolytes.

    I have a lot of friends who are very accomplished classical musicians, music teachers and the like. A lot of them listen almost exclusively to classical music. They have never looked down on me for my tastes and I have never looked up to them for theirs. Most of those guys openly love 80's cheese too, like Prince or The Bangles so they are obviously not scared of what impression their tastes will give.

    Finally though, I think we have to be careful not to pin things on people concretely. Tastes change and we cannot be affraid to either listen to something we dislike or play something we are bad at. I can rip out a blues solo without much thought, and I usually do when I play live, that is my strength, but I also try to play latin jazz live and some fusion. Yes, I am crap at both of those, but I spend a lot of time learning that kind of stuff in private and it usually sounds great at home. The moment I get up on stage, it often doesn't and I have to get back to a ripping blues solo.... Perhaps I can actually play some latin jazz then, but can't yet do it well live. Surely the best way to improve this state of afairs is to play more of it live???

    There was a time when I couldn't really play a blues solo so well, but I still tried to play it live. Often it turned out that although I thought it was terrible the audience loved it. So perhaps what we are good at playing is a subjective decision. I know some people think I can play jazz amazingly (these people are clearly brain-dead I must add) and others who think I can't be trusted with a 7th chord. I try not to judge myself, but learn and practice instead (or write ridiculous introspectives on forums.......) Playing live is great practice for anyone and I encourage more of it.
    Last edited by bluesking; 08-14-2009 at 12:00 PM.
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  3. #3
    Mad Scientist forgottenking2's Avatar
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    I enjoy Bach. Particularly the Goldberg Variations and Brandenburg Concertos. I can see the mechanical on some of his suites (although the cello suite is just beautiful) or his violin sonatas (great guitar practice material if you can stomach it). There's literally tons of classical music I enjoy Mozart's Symphonies are awesome, and there's very little than Beethoven wrote that I can't listen with a smile on my face. However, I am not fond of romantic or contemporary classical music. I did try to get into it, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Hindelmith, Adams but I could get no enjoyment out of it.

    There are tons of other stuff I listen to. Among them you have stuff like Broadway Musicals, pop and of course good old rock.

    I also enjoy lots of things would make a lot of people go "Oh no!" (like that song "someone's watching me" there's something about that chorus sung by Michael Jackson that's just great lol) or stuff like D12 (I admit I have to be in the right mood with the right crowd to bust out one of those cds).

    What I play is not quite as diverse (I wish I could land a gig with a Broadway show lol ) and there's sure a gap between the classical music I listen to and what I have played (mostly in recitals since I do not have the chops or the balls to take an actual classical gig). Teaching and taking gigs outside of my comfort zone have helped me diversify though.

    What I'm actually GOOD at... hmm probably rock although I have gotten pretty decent as a country player as well. I'm a marginal jazz guy at best and I consider myself a classical student no more.

    Irrelevant music for me, probably some of the avant garde experimental jazz and the contemporary classical music.

    There you have it. My own self evaluation.

    -Jorge
    "If God had wanted us to play the piano he would've given us 88 fingers"

  4. #4
    Chicks dig me Danster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluesking
    As you say, Bach features frequently in conversation, but AC/DC is usually found in the record collection.
    In one sentence you have named my two favorites in two different genres. I am no classical music aficionado, but Bach was a freakin' genius. He had a gorgeous command of harmony, and wrote many beautiful melodies. I don't know if I'd classify AC/DC as genius, but I do enjoy the heck outta listening to and playing their music. A criticism of AC/DC... "all their music sounds the same" would probably be applied to Bach by some people also.

    Hmm... what to pop into the CD player, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring", or "Highway to Hell"?

  5. #5
    Registered User bluesking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danster
    In one sentence you have named my two favorites in two different genres. I am no classical music aficionado, but Bach was a freakin' genius. He had a gorgeous command of harmony, and wrote many beautiful melodies. I don't know if I'd classify AC/DC as genius, but I do enjoy the heck outta listening to and playing their music. A criticism of AC/DC... "all their music sounds the same" would probably be applied to Bach by some people also.

    Hmm... what to pop into the CD player, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring", or "Highway to Hell"?
    Acca Dacca do indeed rock the house.
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  6. #6
    Registered User Madaxeman's Avatar
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    This is a very interesting thread. I know the feeling of "hi-brow" and "low-brow" attitudes towards music. I wonder why we tend to suppress the things we enjoy and conform to more "adult" and sophisticated tastes.

    I would find it odd to lie to myself or put on airs about trying to pretend to enjoy a certain style of music yet go home and find my music collection full of something else entirely...

    For me 1, 2 and 3 are inter-related (maybe still in denial!)
    But 1 influences what I put into 2. What I listen to comes out in my stuff I write, but maybe it is because I am honest about #1.

    1 and 2 is what I play. I play along with the music I like. I listen to music I like, if not why listen to it? So, I am best at playing that and it shows in 3.

    I am always looking for new music to expand my horizons, so there is stuff that I have that isn't in heavy rotation, but I like to throw on occasion to break out of a musical rut, and maybe add something unexpected into my music.

    For me, I really hate labeling music, and if it is honest I don't care what category it fits in.

    So maybe 4 is becoming less of an issue, because some types of music I had avoided for various reasons, I have ended up adding to my collection because (guess what?) after I moved past my own issues with why I avoided it, I found I liked it. I don't give a **** anymore if it is "Paramore" or "Avenged Sevenfold" or "Madonna" or "Mastodon" if I like it that's where it ends. There is still music I can't see myself getting into, but that seems limiting. The day may come where gansta rap is my thing!

  7. #7
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    honestly i don't much care for AC/DC or most rock out there. but some of it i love. I like hip hop also, and even some pop songs and other songs, that many might be embarassed to say they like. classical i find is ok, but i'm never much in the mood for it. i can appreciate it, but it's really a rare kind of music for me to want to listen to. and it doesn't.. groove. it's not like music that makes you want to dance or move, it's usually like flowy or powerful, or waltzy, which is probably my least favorite, and stuff like that. I like the 4/4 loops that loop in factors of 4. I don't even like most jazz. I like freestyle though. but not so much jazz on terms of style like rhythmnically and stuff.

    I like stuff like tommy emmanuel, but i like that in a kind of classical music kind of way, in a relaxing sort of way where i can listen and concentrate on listening to the nuances and intricacies of the music, and i'll prefer this so many more times that classical. but it's still not something i'd necessarily want to listen to in my mp3 player or in my car.

    but ya i'm with you too madaxeman. I don't care if it's pop, a woman sings it, if it's hardcore, mellow, if this guy or that girl sings it, or whatever. I'm completely all about judging the music for how the music itself affects me. and if i'm in the mood for it.

    the thing is that we seldom ever see about anyways, is that lots of the songs people perform are written by others. and sometimes they'll write a song for one person, and then for another, or sometimes someon you like might have written a song for someone you don't like, like recently i heard about Tom Jones having Bono write a song for him. now usually a U2 fan would never say they liked a tom jones song, and probably if you showed them that song they'd say they don't like it. but in reality, bono wrote it, soo...

    true performance matters too. but still. a good song is a good song in my book.

  8. #8
    IbreatheMusic Author ChrisJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blutwulf View Post
    1) Music you enjoy listening to
    2) Music you enjoy performing on an instrument
    3) Music you are actually good at performing
    4) Music that is irrelevant to you
    There is really one more category:

    Music you aspire to be able to play. For me it was always Jazz and up to a certain point, I couldn't enjoy playing it because I was lame at it. I realized in my 30s that I could play the Blues much better than anything else. I could also write it. And sing it. But I still practice playing Jazz 90 percent of the time. I'm much more likely to play Giant Steps during my practice routine than, let's say, a minor blues.

    As far a listening, I might listen to Schoenberg or Nusrat Ali Kahn but have very little intention of playing that type of music. There is something refreshing about listening to something I have no intention of playing because I don't feel obliged to think too much. If I listen to Coltrane, I'm not enjoying it because I'm trying to figure out what he is playing and making mental notes. If I listen to Henderson, I get stressed because I start to get jealous.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisJ View Post
    There is really one more category:

    Music you aspire to be able to play. For me it was always Jazz and up to a certain point, I couldn't enjoy playing it because I was lame at it. I realized in my 30s that I could play the Blues much better than anything else. I could also write it. And sing it. But I still practice playing Jazz 90 percent of the time. I'm much more likely to play Giant Steps during my practice routine than, let's say, a minor blues.

    As far a listening, I might listen to Schoenberg or Nusrat Ali Kahn but have very little intention of playing that type of music. There is something refreshing about listening to something I have no intention of playing because I don't feel obliged to think too much. If I listen to Coltrane, I'm not enjoying it because I'm trying to figure out what he is playing and making mental notes. If I listen to Henderson, I get stressed because I start to get jealous.
    you know what? i like your mental notes idea, and although i don't know theory enough to do that really, i do try and play what they play immediately after, although i can never know really if i got it wrong or right, until i know i'm wrong, because i play in a kind of a relative way, one note relative to the next, and then some points i'm not exactly sure, but then later i know exactly which notes in the scale that would be, and if i'm not imagining those than i messed up somewhere before for sure.

    but anyways, for me, what i'm trying to get perfect is just being able to imagine any sound, or hear any sound and play it. without referring to theory of any sort. althoug i'm using theory to help get me to that stage.

    but after that, i want tto be able to play any sound i can imagine (as long as the shape of the guitar and human body allow it).

    and if i can get to that perfectly, and still even now even though i can't, then all i have to do is remember the lick. never convert it into theory. just straight the sound of the lick in my mind, and then play it later, just like i would any tune i remember or thing i think up on the fly.

    that way you don't need to analyze the tune when you listen to it, and you can just listen to it and enjoy it that way.

    sure, tons of stuff you will forget because he goes through alot real quick, but i think even if you tranaslate into theory that might happen.

    or also you can play it wihile playing on top mimicking it like a parrot repetition, make mistakes and don't care, uintil you find something real cool and then stick around there for a while until you get it.

    because if you can play any lick someone plays you, any lick you can imagine, any lick you hear or remember, then there is no need for analysis, only for remembering how the lick sounded. and you'll be able to use it in any key, and in any other context you feel like, because you are remembering the sound, and can imagine it layered over a different context, whereas if you analyze it, you're maybe missing out on other situations where it might work.

    I listen to lots of different music than i play though too, mostly because i don't only listen to piano music or acoustic guitar music because i like other aspects also, like lyrics, and all sorts of other instruments, hip hop and stuff. there's all sorts of different things i like in music, and i can't be all of those things, or be part of all of those things either really, well maybe part of them, but for instance, playings drums for hip hop would be kind of boring. the emphasis is on the lyrics imo. the music is real simple and repetitive. so not much fun to play.

    but another good thing for that is i want to try and learn as much as i can from as many different styles as possbile.

    some music i'll like some melodies, and like some rhythms and some chord sequences, but they won't match me, like if a woman is singing or just something else that isn't matching my style, but i can stil ltake some of those things i like and incorporate them into what is my style.

    but still the inevitable is that some stuff must be figured out, eared out, or whatever. but for me, i leave those only for something that stands out to me, that i've heard a bunch of times and really like and can't see how is done and stuff like that.

    for jazz that runs by a zillion phrases per minute, i won't bother with most of it.

    i find it's not worth it, because those kinds of "filler" are all linked in a certain styling of the artist anyways and may not work under different circumstances, so the point is kind of moot anyways. since the circumstances i will put myself in will undoubtedly be completely different.

    like say you take the last bars of a phrasing and learn it. well you won't really be able to paste that on to the last bars of any of your phrases without it sounding out of place, unless you completely phrased in the style of the artist. and this i want to try and avoid completely.

    although some things work in many spots, but those usually will be those things that stand out to you often. or a little short something you particularly like.

    just listening and not analyzing imo is so fantastic for learning to play.

    it might even happen that while you play you remember something and try to play it, or maybe something you play reminds you of something else, and then you go to play it, and goof, but then you can figure it out. and now you've absorbed something, only from listening, without thinking theory, and you were able to use it to suit your own phrase. and you can also now plainly see how it fits into the major scale pattern for future reference.

    i find that's a really good way.

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