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#1511692 - 09/08/10 07:05 PM Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level  
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Soozen Offline
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I am sorry if you get this question or something similar a lot. I thought I might find a FAQ, but I don't see one for this group.

I'm a classically trained pianist and can play fairly advanced classical pieces. I'd like to get better at harmonizing and playing by ear. I can pick out one line tunes easily, but I'm no good at chords. I bought this Karajin ear training to give me something to do when I'm not at the piano, but, after having all kinds of difficulty just telling minor, augmented, and diminished chords apart, I'm thinking maybe it's a waste of time trying to learn to identify chords out of context of music. I would rather have something like a collection of pieces that leads me through progressively more difficult sequences, where maybe I listen and try myself, then if I get stuck, I can look at a score.

At the moment I'm going through a book on music theory (The Complete Musician) and I'm also working through Levine's Jazz Piano book. But I think they're going to take me three years to get through them and the Jazz Piano book will be more than I can chew with out a teacher regardless. I don't aim to be a great or even good jazz pianist, I just want to be able to play out of my head more. I also don't want a "method" like a lot of these learn-to-play websites offer. I'd like to be able to play a variety of styles. I want to be a well rounded pianist.

So if you anyone could recommend maybe a book with CD or a list of pieces I might work through or other advice, I'd appreciate it. There' so much stuff out there, I'm feeling lost, and also impatient because I'm getting old.

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#1512077 - 09/09/10 08:34 AM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
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You know I could understand your situation as I am basically in the same boat. One thing that helped me a bit was a book 'simply beautiful piano' arranged by Preston Keys. His arrangements are easy enough for most to sight read, but they are also really nice. They all use simple open voicing's with sort of an emphasis on 7ths and 3rds, and voice leading if that makes any sense. He also tends to stick in the middle region of the piano so its not too hard to play or sight read, and as a result they tend to sound nice. It didn't take long before I could understand exactly why and what he was doing. It also didn't take long before I could create my own arrangements in a similar style.

One thing that also helped me was getting a jazz piano teacher. Its one thing to read about the voicing's in Mark Levine's book, and its another to have a teacher show you them. Myself I am currently working through a few Al Lerner arrangements which I think are also quite good.


Originally Posted by Soozen
I am sorry if you get this question or something similar a lot. I thought I might find a FAQ, but I don't see one for this group.

I'm a classically trained pianist and can play fairly advanced classical pieces. I'd like to get better at harmonizing and playing by ear. I can pick out one line tunes easily, but I'm no good at chords. I bought this Karajin ear training to give me something to do when I'm not at the piano, but, after having all kinds of difficulty just telling minor, augmented, and diminished chords apart, I'm thinking maybe it's a waste of time trying to learn to identify chords out of context of music. I would rather have something like a collection of pieces that leads me through progressively more difficult sequences, where maybe I listen and try myself, then if I get stuck, I can look at a score.

At the moment I'm going through a book on music theory (The Complete Musician) and I'm also working through Levine's Jazz Piano book. But I think they're going to take me three years to get through them and the Jazz Piano book will be more than I can chew with out a teacher regardless. I don't aim to be a great or even good jazz pianist, I just want to be able to play out of my head more. I also don't want a "method" like a lot of these learn-to-play websites offer. I'd like to be able to play a variety of styles. I want to be a well rounded pianist.

So if you anyone could recommend maybe a book with CD or a list of pieces I might work through or other advice, I'd appreciate it. There' so much stuff out there, I'm feeling lost, and also impatient because I'm getting old.

Last edited by s_winitsky; 09/09/10 08:38 AM.
#1512144 - 09/09/10 11:21 AM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
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when figuring out chords to a song, go for the bottom note first, they usually tell you what the chord is. It may get tricky if he is using inversions of a chord, but even he is, chances are the low note is the 3rd or 5th of the chord.

If you want to know what key a song is in, listen to the first and last chord of the tune. Most songs usually end on the tonic or the I chord. Here's the thing about chord progression, most tunes have some kind of I or V chord, maybe ii, and vi, and sometimes you can use the IV chord as a temporary home(like C7 in key of C). You should be able to figure out a good portion of a song just by knowing that.

Also look at the notes you are playing on the strong beat. If the chord is not changing, the notes on the strong beat will give away the chords.

#1512148 - 09/09/10 11:25 AM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: etcetra]  
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Originally Posted by etcetra
when figuring out chords to a song, go for the bottom note first, they usually tell you what the chord is. It may get tricky if he is using inversions of a chord, but even he is, chances are the low note is the 3rd or 5th of the chord.

If you want to know what key a song is in, listen to the first and last chord of the tune. Most songs usually end on the tonic or the I chord. Here's the thing about chord progression, most tunes have some kind of I or V chord, maybe ii, and vi, and sometimes you can use the IV chord as a temporary home(like C7 in key of C). You should be able to figure out a good portion of a song just by knowing that.

Also look at the notes you are playing on the strong beat. If the chord is not changing, the notes on the strong beat will give away the chords.


That's a really good set of tips for those of us who are dying to use both hands playing by ear!
thanks!


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#1514453 - 09/13/10 05:00 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
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What I would suggest is that you simply sit down at that piano and start improvising purely by ear, with no concern for theory or whether you're doing things the "right" way or not. When you do this, everything you produce is your own original music, that no one else has ever played before, which is really amazing when you think about it.

Compare this with working through those jazz piano method books of yours. At the end of three years, all you'll have done is learn set patterns, with no original creation. Whereas after three years of improvising by ear, you will have created thousands of original works for the piano. No contest as far as I'm concerned.

Last edited by Gyro; 09/13/10 05:09 PM.
#1514458 - 09/13/10 05:18 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Gyro]  
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Originally Posted by Gyro
What I would suggest is that you simply sit down at that piano and start improvising purely by ear, with no concern for theory or whether you're doing things the "right" way or not.


Gyro, did you teach Nora the cat how to play?


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#1514530 - 09/13/10 07:28 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
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Gyro, I mentioned in a previous topic that I'd love to hear one of your improvisations. Any way you could show us an example?

#1514691 - 09/14/10 01:47 AM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Studio Joe]  
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Originally Posted by Studio Joe
Originally Posted by Gyro
What I would suggest is that you simply sit down at that piano and start improvising purely by ear, with no concern for theory or whether you're doing things the "right" way or not.


Gyro, did you teach Nora the cat how to play?


I think it's the other way around, Nora taught Gyro how to play.

Originally Posted by Gyro

Whereas after three years of improvising by ear, you will have created thousands of original works for the piano. No contest as far as I'm concerned.


You mean thousands of original works that sound the same, using pretty much the same harmonic and melodic pattern?

I guess in that respect nora the cat improvises new music all that time. do you this random notes played by a cat to be amazing?

Forget about jazz for a second.. can you tell me how much classical composers like Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart studied music through theory and transcription, as opposed to just playing by ear? Do you realize that these composers wouldn't have written the music you are playing now if it wasn't for the theory?

Last edited by etcetra; 09/14/10 02:00 AM.
#1514713 - 09/14/10 03:14 AM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: etcetra]  
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Originally Posted by etcetra


I think it's the other way around, Nora taught Gyro how to play.



Etcetra, you cracked me up with that one. But I have to say, I think Gyro is on to something. Ultimately, we do have to give up all ideas of what's right and wrong, all rules and guidelines, and simply play what sounds good to us.

At least, that's how I see it.

But the thing is, from what I've read, Gyro, you live purely at one end of the spectrum. You say you have no interest in learning to imitate—with precision—what other musicians are doing. And what folks here are saying is that copying is an essential part of the learning process.

Quite simply, it's how we learn any language—be it English, French, or music.






#1514745 - 09/14/10 05:28 AM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Bruce Siegel]  
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Bruce Siegel,

I am not completely rejecting the usefulness of what Gyro is trying to preach, but what he is saying is not very helpful if you are trying to figure out how to harmonize a melody with chords.

BTW Gyro has also made the same exact suggestion on figuring how to figure out chords to a pre-existing song.. basically he said just play by your ear regardless of whether it resembles the tune or not. Well, I am pretty sure practicing that way for 100 hrs won't get you any close to learning the chords to that tune, and the stuff Me and other people have said can probably help you figure out the song in couple of hours.

Bottom line is make sure your suggestions are actually relevant, and make suggestions on something you know something about smile

#1515016 - 09/14/10 02:57 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
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Studio Joe, that kind of response doesn't help people, better you say: "I've been learning jazz piano from a textbook, and I can now do __________." Fill in the blank with what you can do on the piano.

Btcomm, the reason I don't post a recording is that I don't have any recording set-up, and it would cost me more than $1000 and hundreds of hrs. of testing to get it all in place, and I have no time for that. But more to the point, if you're asking this, that means you've never tried improvising like I describe, because if you had, then you'd see what I'm talking about. You need to try it, and experience the satisfaction that this brings. You're creating original routines on the piano each time you sit down--you're never creating the same thing in a practice session-- things that no one has ever done before on the piano. Just this idea alone is so amazing that I'm surprised everyone is not dropping everything and rushing to their piano to try it.


Last edited by Gyro; 09/14/10 02:58 PM.
#1515025 - 09/14/10 03:05 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
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Thanks for the suggestions. I found an old thread started by a classical pianist who wanted to be a "cocktail pianist" and found that thread quite helpful, too.

A teacher would be great, but I live in a very small town and am having trouble finding anything online. Next time I go to a piano bar in the city, I might ask the guy for lessons or teacher recommendations.

I've been sitting down and playing some easy pieces by ear - like some Billy Joel licks, John Lennon's "Imagine", the Pink Panther theme, and the chicken dance - and you're right, etcetra, it's not hard once you figure out the bass. I've been having a lot of fun. I'm looking for some slightly more complicated pieces to work on, so if anyone has some favorites that I could find online, I'd love to hear your suggestions. I'd especially like to learn some latin pieces.

#1515028 - 09/14/10 03:10 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Gyro]  
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Back in high school (quite a while ago!), when I studied only classical music, I used to sit down and improvise. What mostly came out were simply rock and roll chords, as that's all I knew. It was fun, but I'd get bored after 15 or 20 minutes, as it all started to sound the same.

Fast forward many years, and I've now been studying jazz for several years, including harmony, transcriptions, listening, etc. I can now improvise for hours on end because of all the new sounds, rhythms and techniques I've learned. Each solo is my own, never before created music.

Improvising based solely on your ear, without studying the great masters of jazz, is like swimming in a small, inflatable pool in your backyard, and ignoring the ocean around the corner.

#1515036 - 09/14/10 03:20 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
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Jjo, I'm skeptical. This improvisation you do now, what does it sound like? If you're of the mindset of most of the people here, I suspect it sounds too much like all the jazz piano you hear on Youtube, that is, it all sounds like "standard" jazz. I have no desire to play like that. What's the point in sounding like everyone else, is the way I see it. You might think my improv sounds terrible, because it doesn't sound like anything you've heard before, it's not the "correct" way to play jazz. But that's the whole point. I want to sound different from everyone else. What's the point in playing if you're just going to sound the same as everyone?

#1515047 - 09/14/10 03:42 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Gyro]  
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Originally Posted by Gyro
Jjo, I'm skeptical. This improvisation you do now, what does it sound like? If you're of the mindset of most of the people here, I suspect it sounds too much like all the jazz piano you hear on Youtube, that is, it all sounds like "standard" jazz. I have no desire to play like that. What's the point in sounding like everyone else, is the way I see it. You might think my improv sounds terrible, because it doesn't sound like anything you've heard before, it's not the "correct" way to play jazz. But that's the whole point. I want to sound different from everyone else. What's the point in playing if you're just going to sound the same as everyone?


Okay let's clarify,

you have no desire to play like that.

again,

YOU have no desire to play like that.

again,

YOU have no desire to play like that.

So why are you writing to people who actually want to play like that? and actually enjoy learning it that way? Are you saying your method is better? Because whether your way is better or not, is subjective right?

What is wrong with wanting to sound like someone else instead of being original? HOW CAN YOU SAY EITHER ONE IS BETTER OR WORSE?

Bottom line is Do you see how USELESS AND IRRELEVANT your suggestion is if you want to PLAY LIKE THAT? Why do you insist on your method when it doesn't help you PLAY LIKE THAT, which is what the OP wants to do?

WHY CAN"T SOMEONE DO BOTH BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT MOST JAZZ MUSICIANS ACTUALLY DO IN REALITY? I can tell you I do alot of free improv when I am not inspired to practice and most jazz musicians do.

btw most people that post youtube recording doesn't have $1000 equipment. They are probably using camcorder the got for like 50-100 bucks.

Last edited by etcetra; 09/14/10 04:03 PM.
#1515066 - 09/14/10 03:58 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
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Soozen

There are tons of stuff you can find on youtube for free

Some basic harmonizing stuff
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yad7RBHgCzg&feature=related

Solo Jazz piano
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AowFCHpvobM

Funk Keyboard
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPEX...FAAA3B28C7C0B&index=0&playnext=1

Gosepel Keyboard
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_B2sYP8OoVk


I guess I've done enough transcription so if I want to learn something new I just transcribe it, using programs like Transcribe! or amazing slow downer. It's amazing how much you can learn from the internet. You don't need to go to school to learn these stuff, and you couldn't learn music like this 10 yrs ago.

Last edited by etcetra; 09/14/10 04:27 PM.
#1515073 - 09/14/10 04:05 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
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My recommendation would be to master a key. Get really comfortable in the key of C and find popular songs in this key online. One of my favorite resources is www.e-chords.com where you can find the chord chart virtually any popular song. They don't typically provide the melody, so it's still a work-out for you.

Basic music theory can be really valuable as well, learning fundamental differences between major and minor, how songs are typically structured. Especially with pop music, it follows a set structure most of the time.

Hopefully that's helpful! Just master one key.


Sarah
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#1515114 - 09/14/10 04:49 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Gyro]  
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Quote
What I would suggest is that you simply sit down at that piano and start improvising purely by ear, with no concern for theory or whether you're doing things the "right" way or not. When you do this, everything you produce is your own original music, that no one else has ever played before, which is really amazing when you think about it.


Hard for me to understand how this is done .... please post a sample recording.

#1515126 - 09/14/10 05:04 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
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dannac

it's kind of like saying "try to type/write something purely by instinct, with no concern to grammar/spelling, or whether you are doing it right.When you do this, everything you produce is your own writing, that no one else has ever played before, which is really amazing when you think about it.

In writing it usually looks like this

afiodafnEfajiunfz;p'do;jnvopkewdmfjnvop

or

kpojmihubnjp;];l[pko

or

\;]lp'ok;jilkhugy

I think you get the point..

Last edited by etcetra; 09/14/10 05:05 PM.
#1515144 - 09/14/10 05:20 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
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Dannac, I can understand your reluctance to do this. I had yrs. of classical lessons as a child, and I've been playing for more than 30 yrs., and in the past I've tried to study music theory in order to "have the foundation to improvise" (I tried to study classical harmony, both types of counterpoint, form, orchestration, jazz theory, etc.), and it never occurred to me to just sit down and play by ear, because I was afraid I would do it "wrong." Finally, about a yr. ago I got fed up with wading through theory textbooks, because they weren't helping me at all, and so I just started to play by ear, and it was a revelation. This is what I should have been doing way back when I was a child, and by now I'd be tearing up the keys improvising.

There is no set way I can tell you to do this, because your previous experience playing and your music tastes will influence exactly how you do it. You just dig in with both hands and play, purely by ear, with no concern for theory or whether or not you're doing things the "right" way.

Surprisingly, the very first time I did this, I thought I sounded pretty impressive, since I had no experience doing this and had no reference point. Soon however, I realized that I had much to learn. Like anything improvisation takes a lot of practice.

What this teaches you is how to think with your fingers on the spot, so to speak. With experience you should be able to improvise by ear from scratch, not trying to play anything specific, but instantly adjusting to the particular situation and audience.


#1515147 - 09/14/10 05:23 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
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Gyro, if I'm about anything, it's an intuitive approach to piano playing. But I'm not sure what you're talking about here. When you say 'dig in' are you referring to chords or anything that comes to mind?


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#1515168 - 09/14/10 05:47 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
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I don't think it's necessary to read through a lot of books, either, but I think knowing something about basic theory/chords is helpful for improvising and also for playing from any type of written music, lead sheets, etc. For example, a lot of songs follow a Circle progression/pattern of chords in some way:

http://www.angelfire.com/fl4/moneychords/circle.html

You can also be creative and reharmonize the chords of a song in a lot of different ways:

http://www.angelfire.com/fl4/moneychords/substitutions.html

I think it's good to be aware of the Circle, etc, not just because it's used a lot in traditional and pop/jazz music but because it really sounds good. smile That's exactly why it's used so much.

Last edited by Elssa; 09/14/10 05:50 PM.
#1515356 - 09/14/10 10:40 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Elssa]  
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What is silly is that some people think learning by ear and learning by theory is mutually exclusive.. it isn't. When you are learning/playing by ear, you are using your theory to guide you thorough your playing. To think you have to do one way or the other shows much ignorance about music.

The thing is, Gyro already has some knowledge of chords and scale, which allows him to improvise with chords/scales form the C major scale. If an absolute beginner with no piano experience did the same thing... well I've seen drunk people do it at a bar, and it makes me want to puke. it's really not different than me typing ijafr;nidaiog

I read that Classical Indian music was taught by ear and through 1vs1 instruction, and they never had written music up until the 20th century. It doesn't mean that classical indian music has no theory... but that the theory was learned aurally through imitation and verbal communication.. and the bottom line is, every serious classical indian music has enough body of knowledge to be able to write a book about it.

Like anything else, theory is only helpful when you learn it progressively. Advanced harmonic/rhythmic concepts won't help your improvisation if you are having trouble constructing simple melodic phrases in time. But as you practice more, you should be able to absorb more theory and apply it as part of your vocabulary, and improve as an improviser. Without that process, you are like a classical piano player who is stuck playing the same beginner pieces after playing for years.

Last edited by etcetra; 09/14/10 10:45 PM.
#1515435 - 09/15/10 12:08 AM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: etcetra]  
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What is silly is that some people think learning by ear and learning by theory is mutually exclusive..
I agree.. The best and easiest way to play by ear that I know of is to "match" long melody tones with chords (IOW harmonize), so you have to know at least the basic chords to do that.

Last edited by Elssa; 09/15/10 12:11 AM.
#1515502 - 09/15/10 02:19 AM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
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etcetra  Offline
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Joined: May 2008
Posts: 1,458
Music isn't intuitive, if it is, it's just as intuitive as martial arts. We make it intuitive through our training. We don't think about how we walk a because at one point you had to learn it, and you use that skill all the time.

If you are doing martial arts, the first thing you should worry about is how to properly block and punch.. if you can't do that there is no point in developing your style, because you will just get your butt kicked. Same thing with music, there is no point is talking about your own style if you haven't got your fundamentals together. And that fundamental talks years to develop.

#1515516 - 09/15/10 02:58 AM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: etcetra]  
Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 1,101
Dara Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Dara  Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 1,101
west coast island, canada
Originally Posted by etcetra
there is no point is talking about your own style if you haven't got your fundamentals together. And that fundamental talks years to develop.


Just a little tease etcetra - so are you going to be talking for years before developing your style and fundamentals smile

Congrats on your 1000th posting earlier today.

#1515555 - 09/15/10 05:38 AM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 1,458
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member
etcetra  Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Joined: May 2008
Posts: 1,458
opps I didn't realize the typo...

haha thanks, I think I am going to get my style from taunting Gyro for coupe of more years smile

Last edited by etcetra; 09/15/10 06:15 AM.
#1515667 - 09/15/10 09:46 AM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
Joined: Apr 2008
Posts: 930
jjo Offline
500 Post Club Member
jjo  Offline
500 Post Club Member

Joined: Apr 2008
Posts: 930
Chicago
Gyro: You're skeptical of my playing because of what you hear on YouTube?

Do you listen to Oscar Peterson? Do you listen to Bill Evans? Do you listen to Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Wynton Kelly, Herbie Hancock? Do you like any of these folks. If you don't like their music, let us know. If simply means you inhabit a different aural world. On the other hand, if you like their music, why would you not want to study what they do and incorporate some of their genius into your playing?

#1515711 - 09/15/10 10:53 AM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
Joined: Aug 2010
Posts: 68
Soozen Offline
Full Member
Soozen  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Aug 2010
Posts: 68
USA
Thanks for the video and website recommendations. I'll take a look at those.

#1515865 - 09/15/10 02:38 PM Re: Harmonization and playing by ear, intermediate level [Re: Soozen]  
Joined: May 2008
Posts: 1,458
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member
etcetra  Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Joined: May 2008
Posts: 1,458
JJO,

Gryo actually thinks, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Wynton Kelly, Herbie Hancock are all unoriginal and they are just playing the same patterns, and what they are doing is not what jazz is really about....

Originally Posted by Gyro
but instantly adjusting to the particular situation and audience.



hmmm.. gyro played jazz in front of an live audience??

Last edited by etcetra; 09/15/10 02:53 PM.
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