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Thread: How to improve as a musician

  1. #1
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    How to improve as a musician

    I have been playing in a band doing covers for a while now and i realised that my proficiency in music is not improving as fast as i want it to. I want to understand the 'science' behind music. I am making backing tracks and trying to solo over them using various concepts and ideas but it's turning out to be a very elaborate and frustrating experience as the ideas are not as organic...u tend to get robotic when choosing notes. It would be great if the music geeks on this forum could help me out...

  2. #2
    Registered User SkinnyDevil's Avatar
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    Lots of folks here willing to help...just ask specific questions and you'll doubtless get a flood of answers.

    BTW: Welcome aboard!
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    David M. McLean
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    "...embrace your fear..."

  3. #3
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    IMO there are no short cuts, you have to listen, study and analyze a lot of music. The more you absorb the more you have to draw from.

    Quote Originally Posted by innerspace View Post
    I am making backing tracks and trying to solo over them using various concepts and ideas but it's turning out to be a very elaborate and frustrating experience as the ideas are not as organic...u tend to get robotic ...
    Originality - Solos - have to move beyond patterns and get to melody. Take a look at this.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=Hty...age&q=&f=false

    Pay attention to what is said about leaping and what to do after the leap. An inexpensive keyboard will help you visualize this process.

    +1 to using backing tracks. We all seem to get better the more we play with other musicians, All the backing tracks that are now available are very helpful. Speaking of other musicians - how about jamming with Clapton!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEx9O...eature=related

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 01-01-2010 at 11:02 PM.

  4. #4
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by innerspace View Post
    I have been playing in a band doing covers for a while now and i realised that my proficiency in music is not improving as fast as i want it to. I want to understand the 'science' behind music. I am making backing tracks and trying to solo over them using various concepts and ideas but it's turning out to be a very elaborate and frustrating experience as the ideas are not as organic...u tend to get robotic when choosing notes. It would be great if the music geeks on this forum could help me out...
    I see two related questions here: composition, and improvisation.
    Both are processes of invention, based on certain principles (recognised formulas, with space for creativity within those boundaries).
    Central to both is melody. A composition is not complete until it has a melody, however fancy the chords might be. And in improvisation we are seeking to create melodic ideas on the fly.

    However - compared with chords and harmony - the theory of melody is complicated and elusive. Most composers (and improvisers) create melody from experimentation, playing around until they hit something that sounds good. However much theory you know, you have to forget or ignore it when composing melodies. Sometimes you hear a tune in your head first, then try to sing it or find it on your instrument. Knowledge of theory won't help you create a good tune, although it might help you organise, arrange or harmonise it once you've got it.

    Typically, composition starts with the hunt for a tune. Even if you have some ideas for chord changes, that's only a kind of bait to help inspiration bite. Once you get the tune started, then you follow where the tune leads, and alter the chords as necessary. (Melody must rule.)

    Improvisation is almost the reverse, in that (usually) you already have a composition (tune and chords), but you want to create some other kind of melodic material from it - based on what is given.

    But of course they can be very close, even the same thing, as many composers begin by improvising around a chord sequence. The difference with composition is you are trying to refine your improvised phrases into a coherent whole, memorable enough to stand infinite repetition. With improvisation you can just let each phrase go by, moving on to look for the next. You are not creating a whole new thing, just commenting on an existing thing: adding your "views" to an existing "conversation", not starting a new one.

    Anyway, the point here - the thing that will help you in both composition and improvisation - is to study melody. Learn to play as many tunes as you can (in fact any vocal part of a song). The more tunes you learn, the more they will all dissolve in your brain into a library of phrases and interval sounds that you can draw from. Melodic ideas will then occur to you more readily as you play. You will hear how the chords move, and be able to imagine melodic shapes connecting them and extending into the future (i.e., the next few bars or seconds!).

    Take those covers you've been playing. For how many of them can you play the vocal melody? From memory? Go back and work them out - take them to pieces. Check for the following:
    1. Distinctive melodic shapes, such as interval leaps (what kind of moves have what kind of effect?);
    2. How the notes fit the chords (lots to check here): what are the different sounds achieved by using the various chord tones or extensions as melody notes? (eg, how does a 3rd sound? what about a 9th? etc)
    3. Suspensions: look/listen for non-chord tones held across chords. What's the effect? Do they resolve or not? (what difference does it make?)
    4. Chromaticism: any "wrong" notes in there? So what makes them sound right? (Ie, what comes next?)
    5. Rhythm: hugely important (and under-rated). Syncopation; verbal rhythmic patterns; use of space; long notes vs short notes; etc.
    6: Expressive detail, such as: bends and swoops; vibrato; the effect of high notes vs low ones; dynamics (loud/soft); etc.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by innerspace View Post
    I have been playing in a band doing covers for a while now and i realised that my proficiency in music is not improving as fast as i want it to. I want to understand the 'science' behind music. I am making backing tracks and trying to solo over them using various concepts and ideas but it's turning out to be a very elaborate and frustrating experience as the ideas are not as organic...u tend to get robotic when choosing notes. It would be great if the music geeks on this forum could help me out...
    i would say in order to do what you want to do, practice alot, listen to alot of music, and seek out the names of things you like, and learn parts of music you like, also experiment alot.

    because honestly, to me,

    Quote Originally Posted by innerspace View Post
    the 'science' behind music.
    =
    Quote Originally Posted by innerspace View Post
    ideas are not as organic...u tend to get robotic
    although, naming things and having them organized is very useful. and to me, this is the only purpose of theory. there's no secret recipe you could write in a book. if there was, this book would be a best seller, and 3 billion people would be expert musicians/songwriters.

    your mind needs to learn things in a non text way. a sound way. and this requries alot of practice and listening and stuff. along with the naming of course, but there is not really a "science" and i think using theory as directions to tell you what to play, or how to play, will innevitably lead to this cold mechanical robotic style of play. where everything works. all the notes function, but it's just not moving or entertaining in any kind of special way. just generic.

    if that's what you meant by "science".

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by innerspace View Post
    I have been playing in a band doing covers for a while now and i realised that my proficiency in music is not improving as fast as i want it to. I want to understand the 'science' behind music. I am making backing tracks and trying to solo over them using various concepts and ideas but it's turning out to be a very elaborate and frustrating experience as the ideas are not as organic...u tend to get robotic when choosing notes. It would be great if the music geeks on this forum could help me out...
    Humble your self now and again, listen to 50s,60s music and learn some of there melodical phrasing things that were written during that time era.Back to the basics..Remember improvising with simple arrangements might surprise you...learn to simply to colorize each chord and around each chord in a progression to start.Build 2 note intervals within each chord ,triad arps,simple passing chords,like maybe simple slash chord ideas,plays parts of scales against vocal harmonies.Learn basic counterpoint!study of intervals.You'll never go wrong by learning your intervals.Great tool for improvising.

  7. #7
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    Hmmm...it seems like various concepts and ideas are confusing/frustrating you and your progress? Are these ideas music theory/ structure- related by chance? What concepts are you talking about, and do you feel you understand them? If you feel your grasp on theory is a bit slippery, check out the "articles" tab on this site. It contains some pretty clear
    and practical "how to" and "why" advice. Maybe you will find some of it to be beneficial.

    -In Addition-

    Though there are analytical ("robotic") theory aspects, a lot of music creation is about intuition and self-expression. So one suggestion I would make is while you're exposing yourself to various forms of music, let yourself relax and just feel it. Try to inagine yourself in that particular artists shoes and feel their emotions/message, or the emotions you think they were trying to convey. After you listen, relisten, and think about how you would have expressed
    certain melodic/harmonic elements in a different or better way to convey that emotion, or make the music sound better or more interesting. You can apply this method when soloing against your backing tracks. Listen to those tracks. Listen to those backing tracks. How do they make you feel? What are you trying to express? What pictures, sounds, phrases, or themes come to mind? Now imagine a musical phrase that would serve to "fill out" and "mesh with" your message or theme to support it (to better express your message). Then use your instrument to play this phrase out, and generate a flow of additional ideas. Experiment and have fun! Do this enough and you might become a great improviser. Hopefully, this helps : ).
    Last edited by Chordy_Ordy25; 03-29-2010 at 05:22 AM.

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