Practicing, Sincerity, Awareness, and Passion!

DjangoBooksDjangoBooks Seattle✭✭✭ All of them!
edited January 2015 in Technique Posts: 447

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imagePracticing, Sincerity, Awareness, and Passion!

Greetings folks! Today, I would like to talk about two important, yet, often overlooked aspects of music: awareness and intent. These two terms are rather vague, indeed, but encompass many aspects of music, and I would like to focus on what I believe to be the most important ones. Many people contact me asking for advice on what they should be practicing; I strongly feel that understanding these issues will inevitably help you determine what you should be working on, as a musician.

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Charles MeadowsNoneBucoBluesBop HarrypickitjohnVeedonFleeceJazzaferrilacrossehotclubPetrovMarkAand 2 others.


  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 6,154
    Great insight and inspiration from our own Denis Chang!
  • Gene RaweGene Rawe ✭✭ Olivier Marin
    Posts: 66
    Too much good info to absorb in just one reading. Thanks for taking the time to put this together.
  • patrolpatrol Greece,Athens✭✭✭ Eimers & Goulielmos Antique
    Posts: 49
    very interesting and helpful, thanks!
  • Great take on things beyond just the technical! Thanks, Michael and Denis!
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    edited January 2015 Posts: 1,857
    "There is an international culture of chart readers among professional musicians today. I find this quite unfortunate. Don’t get me wrong (How many times have I said that now?), reading can be a useful skill, but it should never replace our ears and our ability to memorize."

    Hear, hear!

    When playing a Christmas gig, musicians shouldn't need charts for "Frosty the Snowman" or "Santa Claus is Comin to Town"!!!!!

    These are not difficult tunes to play by ear!

    Another thing that drives me crazy about these omnipresent charts is that they are usually chock full of Bill Evans style changes which are usually quite inappropriate for sight reading.

    To my admittedly "hobby musician" way of thinking, the MINIMUM number of REASONBLE chord changes that get the correct melody across is probably going to work out best for both soloists and rhythm section.

    Different forms of music have different conventions re: charts... Folk, rock, bluegrass and traditional jazz usually don't bother with them at all, while big band and modern jazz players tend to use them to the Nth degree...

    To my knowledge, Django and his musical buddies didn't really bother with them, and I am informed by a posting in another thread that Django usually insisted that his accompanists use the simplest chord voicings possible, ie major, minor or seventh chords.

    So where does modern GJ fall in this chart/ chord complexity spectrum? Perhaps that is still open to discussion?

    Thanks for taking the time to write this, Dennis. You've given us a lot to think and talk about!

    The anecdote about the guy who can play "Giant Steps" not being able to play bluegrass made me smile, since a bass player friend told me recently that this exact situation had arisen when he had to find a sub for the guitar player in his bluegrass band!
    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
  • Interesting and thought provoking.

    Brings to mind a comment from Jimmy Heffernanwho is one of the top pro's on his main instrument, the dobro. He told me "just because you can play it, doesn't mean you should."
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Al WatskyAl Watsky New JerseyVirtuoso
    Posts: 440
    DC always makes sense.
    Good observations for sure.
    As far as the chart thing goes, I know that some of the busiest professionals around the NY Metro area are reading all the time. Their gigs are "music by the pound" type unionized gigs. The gig has a book. You read the book because its the way the leader expects the music to be played. If you don't play the book your fired. Yes, it might be "frosty" but its the leaders frosty so you gots to play that.
    So theres that . But on the other hand there are these semi pro gigs that are chart heavy. Thats usually a lack of commitment on the part of the players. You can usually count on that sort of gig to be pretty lame. People think they're on it but ain't . Oh well.
    Jam session GJ is not GJ. Jam session mainstream Jazz is often called "jam session jazz" by players to make the distinction between real professional music making and ah ? , how to put this, chaos .
    Most professionals participate in Jams just to maintain their physical endurance and network.
    Jam sessions can be musical but often are more a social event.
    This chord change thing in GJ is pretty weird.
    Lots of wrong changes, not minimalist , just wrong , traditional but still jarring . You learn them, but find that you can not use them in a non GJ context. So, know that. Its not quite Jazz . Its a form of willful primitivism .
    My wife who is not a musician attended a concert at a NYC night club last year.
    Well known players, excellent musicians. Masters of their craft.
    My wife made a comment I thought was interesting. She and I have been attending recitals and concerts of all types for the last 35 years . Lots of Jazz and classical as well as pop forms. Principally Jazz though.
    She said she thought ,"they were playing jazz as though it were folk music." She thinks the rhythmic pulse in traditional GJ is hopelessly past tense and corny . She dislikes the "wood chopping ".
    I guess my point is that the genera appeals more to people who have no knowledge of American Jazz past around 1947, or are nostalgists that are hearing "All Of Me" , for the first time and are more used to hearing and playing songs like "Froggy Goes A Courting" , at least thats how it sounds !
    Lots of other professional musicians I know feel the same way. Some of them are very highly placed in the world of musical education and in fact think a focus on"style" is a dead end artistically . Another point of view.
    Its one of the reasons that professional musicians are not likely to be inclined to memorize this stuff, which is why you see all these groups with music stands playing those tired charts and cashing in on a fad.
    Talk about sincerity. Musicians are often not exactly the most sincere when it comes to earning a living.
    I think we can be better than that.
    Develop the style, move forward.
    Its a great tradition.

    Onward and upward.
  • pickitjohnpickitjohn South Texas Corpus, San Antonio, AustinVirtuoso Patenotte 260
    Posts: 936
    Practicing, Sincerity, Awareness, and Passion!
    Just the title itself would be how I wish to be aware of My Musical New Year Attitude.
    Thanks Denis glad you took the time to share your GYPSY PASSION.
    Many points to consider and incorporate.
    Above all, play it like you mean it! Most important of all, however, just have fun; play what you want to play, and don’t worry about what other people think.

    I Love the above quote.

    @Lango-Django made me laugh Will,

    I can't remember seeing Hear, hear! used in a more appropriate context.

  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,857
    Wow, Al Watsky's response is another fine example of the level of insight that has kept me coming back to this website over the years.

    "Willful primitivism" ;-)

    "appeals more to people who have no knowledge of American Jazz past around 1947" ;-)

    Both very true, Al, and perhaps the willful primitivism implies a deliberate rejection of post-1947 style jazz?
    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
  • edited January 2015 Posts: 3,707
    GJ is similar to the trad jazz movement......playing in a style from a bygone era.

    Nothing wrong with that, artistically. Same as playing rock and roll today or blues for that matter. Some of the young guys in the genre are certainly taking the style to a new place, though I do kinda agree with Al that the rhythmic pulse is pretty old school.

    As for charts............If playing in a bigger band with horns ( sextets and up) playing without charts means either .....people all being in the same space and having a high level of musicianship and chops....or chaos, followed by train byline in my signature says it all on this topic, amateur pro or whatever.

    At my age, it takes time for a new song to work it's nuances into memory. And some old songs it's easy to morph from one to another with very similar changes if not played often. Usually a quick glance at the chart to refresh the memory is all that is needed if playing rhythm. If on sax, a lead sheet if I have to do the head on a tune I don't have in current RAM otherwise after a couple of choruses the harmony is pretty evident on Most tunes.

    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
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