#1
Hey all!

Long time lurker, first time poster here. I recently began to feel that i was in a bit of a gripe with music, so i thought the best thing to do was to come here and ask you guys for your perspective.

So a short description about myself before heading right on the question. I am a player that has played for a few years now, started out as a rock player and have gradually during the last two years begun to be more interested in music like Jazz, Funk, Fusion, Blues etc.

The thing i am abit confused about is how to do so. When i was more of a rock player, i learned to play that style by imitating others and see how that related to the music. I was never the person who sat around and practiced scales and arpeggios for 1-3 hours everyday, i just learned them as a theoretical concept (for example knowing that a major scale is 1 2 3 4 5 6 7, and a minor is 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7) and i just practiced music all day, relating it back later to the theory. And i got good at playing and improvising rock music by imitating others, and developed my own style there.

Now the reason i am writing this post is since i started pursuing these new styles, i have been told by other people who are also learning these styles (people i've jammed with at local music schools and jazz nights) that my approach is flawed, that i should practice the scales and arpeggios over the songs and not learn the way i used to, i just don't see how this is helpful to me at all. I've already started to read up on the theory related to these styles (altered scales over V chords going to I for example) and i know what scales "fits" each chord, and what chord tones are in each chord, but i don't understand why i am supposed to practice playing that. Why not just listen to a recording of Django for example and hear what he did over a ii-V-I and start to build up an own vocabulary that way (and changing up the vocab aswell, not just learning verbatim).

I guess my main question is that i just don't see the benefits of practicing scales and arpeggios physically (theoretically is another thing) over learning vocabulary by ear from other great players. When i do the later i sound good, when i do the first it sounds like an exercise. And learning lines allows me to become fluent over more tunes by seeing the relationships between the chords.

I guess i am just confused why so many people i meet are opposed to learning how to play the music by learning from the ones that came before me, that is how i got good at rock music so i don't understand why the same wouldn't apply to these new styles. Most importantly, music is not fun anymore when i practice these things rather than actual songs and musical examples, i don't understand why you must practice boring stuff to progress.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, i am a little confused and need some guidance.
Last edited by MrDjango at Apr 22, 2015,
#2
I don't play those styles but my advice is to do what feels right to you. Listen to other people's advice for sure. Whether you decide that the advice is good for you or not is up to you.

I am fairly sure there are jazz players that learned purely by ear and practicing/playing. I couldn't say for sure.

I am pretty certain that learning arpeggios and practicing as many people have advised you to do would help you. However, if that takes all the fun out of it for you then maybe it's not the right thing for you. Keep in mind though that when you are serious about something and want to get better the work you have to put in to get there is not always fun.

Sports analogies are not great but I'm going to use one anyway...a football player loves playing football. Playing the game is something they enjoy a great deal. The training required to get better is not always fun though but they realize that putting in that hard work makes the game even more fun. So you could think about it that way, putting in the work to learn chord scales and arpeggios may not be as fun as just letting loose and playing but if you put in enough work then in time it may make the playing even more enjoyable.
Si
#3
Quote by 20Tigers

I am fairly sure there are jazz players that learned purely by ear and practicing/playing. I couldn't say for sure.

I am pretty certain that learning arpeggios and practicing as many people have advised you to do would help you. However, if that takes all the fun out of it for you then maybe it's not the right thing for you. Keep in mind though that when you are serious about something and want to get better the work you have to put in to get there is not always fun.

.


I think the main problem i am having is that i don't understand why i should practice the way they mention, when i can get the same thing out of learning of records and analyzing that. As said, i know the theory of it, which chord scales goes where and what i know a ton of different chord alterations and so on. But i can find that when transcribing as well, why not make practicing scales over a tune the same as learning a solo over a tune for example? Then i am practicing the scales over the changes, and learning a musical way to use them in context, and the more i learn the more free i get.

I am not learning entirely by ear per say, since i am still looking at the lines and such that i learn afterwards, see how they relate to the chord i am playing and the key i am playing in (if it is played on a V chord going to I, or a V chord that is not leading to I for example), and then use it in other tunes.
#4
You sound like you've got your own way of learning and it works for you so keep doing it.

Listen to other opinions by all means, but extract just the helpful or useful parts. You don't need a paradigm change in the way you're doing things.
#5
Quote by MrDjango


Now the reason i am writing this post is since i started pursuing these new styles, i have been told by other people who are also learning these styles (people i've jammed with at local music schools and jazz nights) that my approach is flawed, that i should practice the scales and arpeggios over the songs and not learn the way i used to, i just don't see how this is helpful to me at all.


The people who are telling you your approach is wrong have no clue.

You should absolutely approach learning new styles like jazz and fusion the same way you learned rock.

This isn't to say the study of harmony and theory isn't important, or that such studies don't have their place, but the most important thing is to listen as much as possible to those styles that interest you.

By immersing yourself in listening to masters of a given musical style, you pick up on all the "intangibles" that a mere theoretical understanding of chord/scale relationships, etc., can't convey, e.g., phrasing, feel, time, groove, ornamentation, etc. Eventually, the foregoing elements are "imprinted" at a subconscious level, and they become second nature to your playing.

It's helpful to think of music as a language.

When, as a child, you first learned to speak, you learned by listening to (and by trying to imitate) your parents and/or other fluent speakers around you.

What's the best way to learn a new language?

By surrounding yourself with people who are already fluent in that language.

Theory plays a supportive role.

__________________________________________

Regarding the subject of learning scales and arpeggios:

This is sort of a three step process for the (guitarist) improviser:

Step one: Learning traditional fingering patterns for scales and arpeggios, e.g., the "CAGED" system. This is simply a means of breaking the guitar fingerboard into five areas or patterns that take in the entire fingerboard.

(More important than this, IMO, is learning the names of all the notes on the fingerboard, from bottom to top. Best way to accomplish this? Learn to read standard notation.)

Step two: Familiarize your ear with the sounds of those scales and arpeggios via repetition.

Step three: Use the scales and arpeggios to create melodic motifs, lines and phrases.

("Create" is the key word here.)

Now, don't most people want to get to step three as quickly as possible?

After all, that's where the fun starts and where the magic happens, right?

So, for me, the best approach to learning music is the approach that gets you to step three the quickest (and with the least amount of confusing, pedantic BS.)

Final important note about learning scales and arpeggios:

If you are trying to learn jazz, then it's equally important to learn how linear improv concepts like common tones, upper and lower neighbor tones, targeting, etc., figure in the style (all part of step three as explained above.)

#6
Quote by Tonto Goldstien


This isn't to say the study of harmony and theory isn't important, or that such studies don't have their place, but the most important thing is to listen as much as possible to those styles that interest you.


Yeah, my own philosophy has always been sound first explanation later. I have been treating it like a language as you mentioned, when i started getting into these styles of music i was drawn towards people like Victor Wooten and George Benson who treated it as a language. Even back when i was mainly a rock player i learned to sing solos like "Sweet Child o Mine", "Hotel California" and "Freebird" before ever learning them on the guitar. I learned the sound first, then found them on the guitar, then found the words to describe what was happening (Chord names, progression names, scales etc).

The elements you mentioned is also a reason why i prefer learning off records, it makes me sound jazzy immediately, because i can copy all the aspects of playing (tone, articulation, phrasing etc). It attacks my playing from all angles.

The second half of your post regarding scales and arpeggios:

1. I have a fingering concept for the scales already, since i did a lot of reading even back when i was playing rock. I've played guitar in a few local renditions of musicals such as Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar etc. So i know where all my notes are and i have a few positions i use when reading music, however i don't practice scales with these, i only practice sight reading with them.

2. I think i am familiarizing my ears with these musical elements when transcribing and learning lines though. For example, i am not satisfied with learning something if i can't sing it, so if i am learning the melody for a standard for example it is equally important for me to be able to sing it as it is for me to be able to find it on the guitar. So i am singing a lot of melodies all the time, both solo and while comping myself so i can hear them against harmony.

3. This is also something i do with transcribed work. I might take the rhythm of a phrase and use it with another set of notes, or use the same notes but another rhythm. Or i might find a certain guide tone line when learning lines that i will use on other chord changes etc.

Basically i am doing most things that you mentioned, but i get my information from the transcription process. If i learn one phrase, i figure out ten different ways to use it. As said though, i don't like putting scale practice and arpeggio practice as a physical thing in my practice. Theoretically i know them, but i rather learn about their use in solos rather than on their own. The improv concepts you mentioned are things i keep finding in language i've learned and that i keep applying to new tunes.

Thanks for taking the time to answer, getting other peoples view on this helps a ton.
#7
^

I'm with you 100% re: scale practice.

I think everyone realizes at some point that the real goal is to get to the place where you recognize the sound of a given scale instantly, i.e., without having to pause to think about it.

That way, no matter where you are on the fingerboard or keyboard, you always know the location of the next scale or chord tone.

Fingering patterns no longer dictate your movements - only sounds.
#8
You can't learn music without listening to it. People who tell you only to learn theory and not to just imitate your favorite musicians don't know what they are talking about.

Sound first, theory second. Theory is there to explain sounds, not to tell what to do.

I mean, of course it helps to learn all the theoretic concepts. But guess what? The theoretic concepts come from musicians. They didn't exist first. They exist because somebody first played something and then people came up with explanations for it.

To properly understand theoretic concepts, you should listen to music. If theory is not connected to practice, there's really no use of it.

What the people are telling you is kind of the same as telling somebody who's learning a language to learn all the grammar first before even trying to speak. OK, music theory is not grammar, it's a bit different, but you get the point.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Apr 22, 2015,
#9
Quote by MaggaraMarine

Sound first, theory second. Theory is there to explain sounds, not to tell what to do.



Yeah, this has always been my thought process up until i started jamming with these people. It is nice to hear that i'm not alone in thinking this way.

All the improvisational concepts i know (voice leading, common tones, chord tones, approach notes etc) are things i have picked up from recordings and then later found the name for. I figured that if you are learning music, an artform of the ear, you learn by listening and thinking about the sounds rather than think about "i play x scale when y chord shows up", rather i think of a line that sounds good over that chord, and then if i listen back to it later i can see "Oh,i happened to be using the notes of the altered scale there".

Once again, thanks for taking the time to write. This is starting to bring some peace to a worried soul, i will get back to transcribing stuff heavily again tomorrow.
#10
Why did they tell you you were doing it wrong? Did they not like the things that you were playing? Or were they fine, and just suggesting that you broaden your horizons more and learn arps? To be honest, it is a pretty sound addition to your grab bag. But you can learn what you want and use it how you want, as long as it works.

When I studied with Jimmy Bruno, he taught the arpeggios to the 7th all over each of his positions (If you're familiar with JB's 5 positions) for all the ii V I embedded in those. So, they are sort of right, in that lots of people do that, and then from that, using those as a basis for alterations, like from the b7 to 7 in slides.

Having the framework lets us use passing notes intentionally instead of randomly, and gave us more control over the framework as we'd weave in and out of the progression. Also since they were often times changing keys quickly (or using temporary tonicization) that framework became easier to follow and conceptualize.

Best,

Sean
Last edited by Sean0913 at Apr 22, 2015,
#11
Quote by MrDjango
Yeah, this has always been my thought process up until i started jamming with these people. It is nice to hear that i'm not alone in thinking this way.

All the improvisational concepts i know (voice leading, common tones, chord tones, approach notes etc) are things i have picked up from recordings and then later found the name for. I figured that if you are learning music, an artform of the ear, you learn by listening and thinking about the sounds rather than think about "i play x scale when y chord shows up", rather i think of a line that sounds good over that chord, and then if i listen back to it later i can see "Oh,i happened to be using the notes of the altered scale there".

Once again, thanks for taking the time to write. This is starting to bring some peace to a worried soul, i will get back to transcribing stuff heavily again tomorrow.

I say this as somebody who's studying music theory.

I found no use for theory knowledge before it was connected to actual music - I didn't even understand theory before connecting it to practice. It just makes no sense to learn random theoretic concepts if you don't understand how they are actually used in real songs.

Music theory is there just to help you understand music. You still need to use your ears - theory knowledge doesn't replace ear, nothing does. But it becomes easier to figure out what's really happening if you know theory.


To properly understand theory, you need to know it in practice.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Apr 22, 2015,
#12
Quote by Sean0913
Why did they tell you you were doing it wrong? Did they not like the things that you were playing? Or were they fine, and just suggesting that you broaden your horizons more and learn arps? To be honest, it is a pretty sound addition to your grab bag. But you can learn what you want and use it how you want, as long as it works.



Hi Sean, thanks for your reply.

I think the main thing they mentioned was that by learning of records and so on that i would not grow as an improviser. That i would be stuck using other peoples ideas and not grow as an individual. I thought that was weird, because i am basically doing the same thing they are but from another perspective. They might learn scales and arpeggios over the tunes that we practice, and i learn lines from recordings instead, but when i am learning the lines i am doing the same thing as them, altering the lines so i can play a line at least 10 ways, i also see how it relates to the scales and arpeggios that i am using. Learning from the lines and altering them to fit my playing style is allowing me to form my own style (at least in my perspective). Point is, i know my arpeggios and scales, i just don't see why i should physically play them by themselves or over tunes when i can rather spend time working with a transcription of one of my favorite players way of playing over that tune, and then learning to alter those phrases to get more milage out of the information.

And yes, i am familiar with Brunos five positions. That is actually what i currently use for sight reading (even though i didn't learn it from bruno). I can visualize the shapes on the fretboard and see notes outside of them, i am just opposed to it as physical practice, if that makes sense. Music has always come before exercises for me, even when it come to technique, i have used Bach (for example) pieces i have enjoyed to improve my technique, not chromatic exercises or scale patterns.
#13
^ Scales don't even give you ideas. A scale is not going to give you a certain sound - it's about the way you use the notes. And you learn to use the notes by listening to how other players use them.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#14
If it works for you why change it? I mean they're just giving you advice that works for them, but if you don't really see how it can benefit your playing then don't even think twice about it. You can still take from others to improve your own methods, but if it's not something that you can really see yourself using then don't do it. Either way I think it's pretty ignorant how they're telling you that you're approaching things the wrong way. I could understand if you weren't making any progress with your methods of learning then it would completely make sense. That's not the case though it seems like you're versatile in your learning approach, and i'm the same way too.


I know a whole bunch of styles that I practice taking from each to develop my own style. I transcribe a lot of records to figure out what my favorite musicians are doing so I can copy, and implement it into my own playing. I truly do think that's the best way to develop musically because it's the nuisances that really make up your own distinctive sound. All the blues guitarist play all the same licks, but it's really the little nuisances in what they do that separates them from sounding like the others.


I do think it's good to learn scales, and arpeggios for the technical side of things though, but when i'm improvising I don't think in terms of "scales", and "arpeggios". I think in terms of sound so when it comes down to it your ears are the most important part not even the technical sides of things can compare to what your ears can do.

#15
It feels good to know i was not alone in my thoughts about this, i just had to double check with you guys. You know, the old "if you live a lie long enough, you may start believing it" mentally started showing up in my brain that i thought that because i was the only one out of all of us that thought this way i might be way off.

Thanks a ton for all the input and help, i will definitively be back in the future with new questions that i have, this community is great! For now, i have some Sonny Rollins transcribing to dive back into.
#16
Transcribing players you like is infinitely more useful on its own than learning scales and arpeggios, but doing both is probably better if you can manage it. If you're familiar with the concepts that the soloists you enjoy are using, then you will have an easier time picking things up and making variations on them.
#17
The "lego" approach, as I've been calling it this days, won't really work until you can do things at a pretty high level.

The advice here is great though.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#18
It's difficult to be a musician. Like Robbie Williams, he experienced with a lot of things. I believe if you have perseverance, you can be a musician definitely. And I bought concert tickets for Robbie Williams from en.damai.cn. I'm going to watch it later. Wish you good luck.