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  1. #1

    Default Right and left brains...

    I've met a great many of my guitar heroes over the years (Danny Gatton, Tommy Emmanuel, Pete Huttlinger, Frank Vignolla, Les Paul, Stephen Bennett, Mark Hanson, Doug Smith, Fareed Haque, Jorma Kaukonen, Johnny Hiland and more) and I've asked each of them about what is going through their head when they are improvising.

    Most of them begin to talk about scales or modes or triads or chord shapes, trying their best to relate to a student who's asking a question they've answered a hundred times. When I press them to think about the precise instant that they are improvising, the answers change. Danny Gatton said that he thinks in colors. Tommy Emmanuel said that he isn't thinking at that time.

    Left brain vs. right brain right?

    I've been in situations where it was not inappropriate to interrupt someone while he was improvising (guitar camps and seminars). I've yelled out "Stop!" and then asked what they're thinking right then. The first thing I notice (after a brief recovery period ) is that they look up, the way people do when they're trying to remember something distant. Then they back into the theory step by step. They'll form shapes on the fretboard with their fretting hand and begin to talk about scales or chords or modes, or arps, etc.

    The point is that they think about this stuff after they play it and only when asked!

    The clearest description of what this experience is like is from Jimmy Bruno. I've written about it many times in these TF forums. He calls it tonality.

    Here's a link or two:

    http://truefire.com/forum/showthread...&referrerid=17

    http://truefire.com/forum/showthread...&referrerid=17

    I'd love to hear Larry's comments on what's happening at the precise moment of creativity.

    My goal to be able to instantly produce the sounds in my head (not the voices, just the music) with nothing intervening in between. Someone else can figure out what to call it afterwards.
    - Jeff


    "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
    - Carl Sagan

  2. #2

    Default

    This could be the most important point on any of these forums yet. I've touched upon the whole "theory is secondary thing", but you're absolutely right. No one THINKS about what they're playing or how they're going to play something when they play it in that moment, they just make music as it comes to them.

    Like Miles said, "Learn that $hit cold, then forget it".

  3. #3

    Default

    Thanks!

    Another thought:

    Everybody's path toward becoming a master is different and necessarily so. There's a balance between discovery and education.

    Have you noticed that when you discover something you never forget it and when you learn something it's gone right after the test?

    As a guitar teacher I think one of the most important parts of my job is holding back from just blurting out answers. It's hard sometimes. Identifying where each student is on their path and spilling just enough beans to allow them to make a discovery on their own is a powerful technique. It builds bravery and confidence.

    Obviously with a DVD course that's impossible, although this feedback forum is certainly a step in the right direction!

    It's important for we students to remember that all this theory and analysis and countless approaches to learning this instrument happened after someone was creative and made made beautiful music. Jimmy Bruno said that he played with his father's band when he was growing up. They rarely talked theory. Each new song was described as "one of these but with one of these in the bridge" (his father would demonstrate). Each tune was related to something he already was familiar with. It wasn't 'till later that he learned what other musicians called it.

    What a great way to learn!

    So what does that mean for a DVD course? Learn something new, like LC's minor third jumps in section 2 and then apply it to tunes you already know. Do this before moving on. Apply it like you discovered it instead of learned it. It's almost like acting but it really works.
    - Jeff


    "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
    - Carl Sagan

  4. #4
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    "The first thing I notice (after a brief recovery period ) is that they look up, the way people do when they're trying to remember something distant."
    That's me!

    "This could be the most important point on any of these forums yet. I've touched upon the whole "theory is secondary thing", but you're absolutely right. No one THINKS about what they're playing or how they're going to play something when they play it in that moment, they just make music as it comes to them."

    I agree!

    Like Miles said, "Learn that $hit cold, then forget it".
    Interesting concept, seems a lot like military training. You do important stuff over and over again, till it's ingrained and ready for when you need it in the real world.


    "Have you noticed that when you discover something you never forget it and when you learn something it's gone right after the test?"

    Yes I have but even more so as I get older

    Really jauen, you have obviously thought a great deal about this. Playing out live in a band, and at practice I get lots of opportunities to solo. Usually I'm not exactly sure what I am thinking or what drives my note selection but I can honestly say I do think of Truefire course snippets on occasion. I will be jamin and think, "hmm why don't I just stay in this position and work it like Brad Carlton" or "hmm, the crowds paying attention I should try a little of Franks call and response theory." Lately it's been WWMD, yep you guessed it "What Would McErlain Do."

    Really though, if some one yelled "stop" I would have to come back from that far away place in that pea brain of mine.
    Too soon we grow old, too late we grow wise

    "I once played notes so fast that light emanated from the strings whereupon, I saw God.... who then told me to relax and start playing music."

    "You know, once you've had that guitar up so loud on the stage, where you can lean back and volume will stop you from falling backward, that's a hard drug to kick." David Gilmour

    Truefire Science Officer (dabgonit....where's my blue shirt!)

  5. #5

    Default

    Great thread topic Jauen!

    And great info guys!

    I'm gonna have to reread to assimilate everything mentioned.
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  6. #6

    Default The Language

    In so many discussions,articles,lessons,etc. one heres the quote that miusic is the "Universal Language" and just as in life as an infant we learn from hearing and emulating what we hear.Then we go on to school learn the vocab,grammer etc. the more we learn the better we are able to express what we are thinking,but we seldom think about the grammer and vocabulary while speaking,we just speak,the vocab and grammer are tucked away in the subconscious.It's the same with music,we get an instrument learn a few chords and start banging out basic music.
    Then we learn a little theory and begin to understand the mechanics ,or should I say the Grammer of music,the more one understands,the greater one's vocabulary the better one is able to express ones self without thinking about it.
    The wonderfull musicians that we hear have this down to a fine art......Dang where is my theory 101 book.
    regards Damian

  7. #7

    Default

    Damien,

    Your post reminded me of a thread from a long time ago. I searched for it. It's a great thread:

    Here's the thread link:http://truefire.com/forum/showthread...&referrerid=17

    Here's my post:

    I wasted a lot of time going down the modal black hole.

    I could pass tests on the theory behind what you "should" and "should not" play over chord changes, but my playing sounded choppy and formulaic. Lots of very cool stuff I was hearing didn't fit into the formulas. Frustration mounted.

    Everything I had learned was based on a snapshot approach to understanding what was happening. Problem is, music isn't static. Music flows. Context constantly changes.

    It's like learning to speak a language. Saying "ain't" instead of "is not" or using profanity and slang (to add color to your communication) is not only appropriate in certain contexts, but makes your point better than any other words or phrases. That approach of course will not work in other situations. Think about it. How did you learn to use "color" in your native language? It certainly wasn't learned by analyzing sentences and paragraphs and trying to follow rules.

    It's the same with music. Sometimes a little color (or a lot) is very effective. Learn it the same way. Play your instrument. Listen and imitate other's that you respect and admire. Relate the new stuff to something you already know. That's how you retain it for later use.

    It seem that you understand quite a bit of harmonic theory yourself. Based on your question, you recognize that the "snapshot" approach to improv involves a lot of thinking while the tune is cruising by. I know that there are people who can effectively improvise this way (Brad Carlton here at Truefire being the preeminent example). I'll bet you he completely ignores all the rules when he is truly improvising in the heat of the moment. If you stop him and ask him what he's doing, he can put it in a theory context ten ways to Sunday, but he's not doing that first.

    Is that true Brad?

    Here's a great way to practice modal sounds ( I hate that term). Pick a key. Record a vamp or jam using any diatonic chords. Loop it. Play the major scale (ionian mode :mad over the vamp. Now play the same scale starting and ending on the second note, then the third, then the fourth, etc. Don't improvise. Straight 8th notes are fine. Each 7 note grouping is a phrase.

    Start each phrase on the first beat of the first chord, then the second beat, then the third, then the fourth. Then start each phrase on the first beat of the second chord, then the second beat, etc, etc. It's truly endless. Do this a thousand times and the tonality of the individual notes gets stuck in your head. You can "color" your playing with these tones any time over any chord regardless what someone at Berkeley calls it. You'll be complimented by theory geeks on your use of the Phrygian mode over the three chord as the tune modulated up a minor third (or some such thing). All you were thinking was "major scale with a little color" or "major arpeggio with a little color."

    Now add the other 5 notes one by one using the same technique. HUGE color palette here. This takes a long time. It's fun.

    Modal studies, I think are good for analyses after playing something, not before.

    Your DbMaj7 chord is of course diatonic to Ab so Ab tonality works fine. Since you're going to CMaj7, try anticipating that change by adding a B natural, D natural, G natural or an E natural to your line over the DbMaj7 just before the change to the CMaj. Half steps are your friend when it comes to color. F and C are the only shared notes, good pivot tones for a less tense sound.

    Here I'd be thinking "Ab, Ab, Ab, Ab, Color Note, C, C, C."

    Isn't that easier than "Ab Ionian, Ab Ionian, Ab Ionian, B Dorian (or E Phrygian or F Lydian...) for a second, C Ionian, C Ionian, C Ionian?"
    - Jeff


    "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
    - Carl Sagan

  8. #8

    Arrow A Word From Your Host

    Quote Originally Posted by Damian View Post
    In so many discussions,articles,lessons,etc. one heres the quote that miusic is the "Universal Language" and just as in life as an infant we learn from hearing and emulating what we hear.Then we go on to school learn the vocab,grammer etc. the more we learn the better we are able to express what we are thinking,but we seldom think about the grammer and vocabulary while speaking,we just speak,the vocab and grammer are tucked away in the subconscious.It's the same with music,we get an instrument learn a few chords and start banging out basic music.
    Then we learn a little theory and begin to understand the mechanics ,or should I say the Grammer of music,the more one understands,the greater one's vocabulary the better one is able to express ones self without thinking about it.
    The wonderfull musicians that we hear have this down to a fine art......Dang where is my theory 101 book.
    regards Damian
    This post, to me, doles out the skinny in my mind. Improvising comes from deep within--at least the stuff that really connects with you the player, the musicians you're playing with and the people listening. Anyone who is really trying to step up to the player plate comes to this mental query and has to deal with it in their own way. I sure did and I asked anyone who would talk to me. Still do. One of the first things I asked Wayne Krantz when I was studying with him back in the early 90's was this very question. His answer was, "the zone". Fuze had more of a complex answer but it boiled down to the same thing. Vic Juris' answer was much less complex, but the same general vibe. Even Mick Goodrick stated "it was a mental state like no other." The point: not one of these guys stated a word about theory or any other structured approach. And to me, the four guys I just mentioned are some of our greatest improvisers--right there with Larry, for sure.

    Consider this: We learned to talk first, then, we learned about what it is we're saying. If it were the other way around this would world would be a silent place (hmmmmmm, ) Think about how hard it was to learn anything in your high school language class. I tried to learn Italian in HS and the entire school year was dedicated to learning from a "rules" based approach. I learned nothing. If I could say anything it was meaningless at best. Why? Because I was thinking about every component of the message I was trying convey and trying to piece them together analytically. Makes me wonder: Does the Rosetta Stone stuff throws this bit out the window? This is totally the same gig with improvising.

    When I was teaching in the trenches (music store gig where you have like 14 students a day, one after the other) I had every level of player coming at me. Sometimes at the end of the day it was the kid who just learned the minor pentatonic scale that said the most musically that day because they were playing from the right head--better yet, from the heart. From an uncluttered, free mind set where they could just play. More times than not, the very instance I complicated that with "theory" the magic started to disappear. As a teacher I had to find the balance between teaching true improvisation and studied improvisation. I had to keep that flame going while I ever-so carefully blew on it with breaths of knowledge to make it burn brighter. If I blew too hard I would extinguish what was to come out naturally thus making the flame get smaller or just die out. And blow too hard I did--many times. Their flames and especially my own. Most of the time you can light another match, but sometimes... well. Improvising is a touchy personal vibe you gotta nurture and pay much respect to. Ego must be checked at the door and you have to be open so you can do what you're supposed to do: play muuuuuusic.

    There's something to be said for the guys who know nothing and can play you and everyone around them under the table. I've seen and had it done to me so many times back in the day. It was only when I started to let go and really play that my improvising meant anything. When I was improvising from the head no one cared except me. When the music just was aloud to come to life, then people cared and my phone started ringing. If no claps after your solo it's because they didn't get it--it's because you didn't give anything to them to get. Am I saying a theoretical approach is the wrong way to go? Uh, have you seen any of my TrueFire courses or read any of my G1 or GP articles for starters? You should see my text books!

    Bottom line: when you're in the moment, let it be that. What you got in your trick is bag is what is going to come out. Wanna extend that bag? Go home and work it out. For real--really work on whatever it is you want to explore and make it yours so that when you go back in the jam--it just comes out. No thought. Just check out Section 6:2--Larry constantly keeps reminding us he's not thinking of the components he's describing to you while he's soloing over a I-VI-II-V, BUT that he's "aware of it". That's the fact, Jack! It's been said so many times, but it's SO true: Learn it, then forget it. You can't speak while trying to think about grammar nor can you play when thinking about theory or technique. It's never going to happen.

    Funny story...

    Back in 2004, right before my oldest son was born, I gotta call from Dave Fiucyznski to sub two days of rehearsals at Symphony Space in the upper west side for a project the great Don Byron was leading. The stage was loaded with names in the jazz, fusion and hip hop worlds. From DJ Logic to Rodney Holmes to Curtis Fowlkes--not to mention Don (!)--this was a major hang. I was the filling in for the only guitar chair in this fairly large ensemble made up of brass, woodwinds, a rhythm section with Latin percussion, turntables, rappers, vocalists--lots going on and a lot to take in. The music was modern arrangements of Sugar Hill Records hits from the early 80's--something very close to my heart indeed. The guitar was a big part of these charts and had some really fun sections to blow on. Well, my time came up in a Grandmaster Flash jam and I got the nod from Don to let it fly. With my trusty '73 Strat, an early model Fuzz Factory, a Whammy II, a touch of analog delay and Fuze's half stack cranked I threw down. I was in it, baby! A zone like no other. I had the most ridiculous rhythm section behind me, DJ Logic dropping his magic and an angled row of master horn players in my periphery playing stabs of glory--all under my improvisatory bliss. No time for scales here boys, I was where I had to be to do this for real. Woot!!

    OK, every watch the Bug Bunny episode where he's the conductor and completely loses it only to hear crickets at the end of his conduction? Well, as my solo rocked on I started to hear everything fall apart--quite quickly actually--until there was kinda just me Whammy-ing away. As I picked my head up and opened my eyes while playing little disjunt snippets of "uh-oh" I look over to the left where Don is right next to me holding his bari only to see that lip smurk people put on when you've done something moronic. Seasoned with a slight shake of the head and accompanied by a row of four other heads leaning over with the same smurk and horns on their lap, Don just goes, "you dun youngblood?"

    That's the zone, guys. When you're in it, take it for the ride of your life. Just don't forget to come back!!!

    BTW, unbeknownst to me Bravo network was there filming a documentary on Don that was aired in Canada. Never saw the episode, but man, I hope that moment went UN-documented
    Last edited by Chris Buono; 12-15-2009 at 12:38 PM.
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  9. #9
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Buono View Post
    This post, to me, doles out the skinny in my mind. Improvising comes from deep within--at least the stuff that really connects with you the player, the musicians you're playing with and the people listening. Anyone who is really trying to step up to the player plate comes to this mental query and has to deal with it in their own way. I sure did and I asked anyone who would talk to me. Still do. One of the first things I asked Wayne Krantz when I was studying with him back in the early 90's was this very question. His answer was, "the zone". Fuze had more of a complex answer but it boiled down to the same thing. Vic Juris' answer was much less complex, but the same general vibe. Even Mick Goodrick stated "it was a mental state like no other." The point: not one of these guys stated a word about theory or any other structured approach. And to me, the four guys I just mentioned are some of our greatest improvisers--right there with Larry, for sure.

    Consider this: We learned to talk first, then, we learned about what it is we're saying. If it were the other way around this would world would be a silent place (hmmmmmm, ) Think about how hard it was to learn anything in your high school language class. I tried to learn Italian in HS and the entire school year was dedicated to learning from a "rules" based approach. I learned nothing. If I could say anything it was meaningless at best. Why? Because I was thinking about every component of the message I was trying convey and trying to piece them together analytically. Makes me wonder: Does the Rosetta Stone stuff throws this bit out the window? This is totally the same gig with improvising.

    When I was teaching in the trenches (music store gig where you have like 14 students a day, one after the other) I had every level of player coming at me. Sometimes at the end of the day it was the kid who just learned the minor pentatonic scale that said the most musically that day because they were playing from the right head--better yet, from the heart. From an uncluttered, free mind set where they could just play. More times than not, the very instance I complicated that with "theory" the magic started to disappear. As a teacher I had to find the balance between teaching true improvisation and studied improvisation. I had to keep that flame going while I ever-so carefully blew on it with breaths of knowledge to make it burn brighter. If I blew too hard I would extinguish what was to come out naturally thus making the flame get smaller or just die out. And blow too hard I did--many times. Their flames and especially my own. Most of the time you can light another match, but sometimes... well. Improvising is a touchy personal vibe you gotta nurture and pay much respect to. Ego must be checked at the door and you have to be open so you can do what you're supposed to do: play muuuuuusic.

    There's something to be said for the guys who know nothing and can play you and everyone around them under the table. I've seen and had it done to me so many times back in the day. It was only when I started to let go and really play that my improvising meant anything. When I was improvising from the head no one cared except me. When the music just was aloud to come to life, then people cared and my phone started ringing. If no claps after your solo it's because they didn't get it--it's because you didn't give anything to them to get. Am I saying a theoretical approach is the wrong way to go? Uh, have you seen any of my TrueFire courses or read any of my G1 or GP articles for starters? You should see my text books!

    Bottom line: when you're in the moment, let it be that. What you got in your trick is bag is what is going to come out. Wanna extend that bag? Go home and work it out. For real--really work on whatever it is you want to explore and make it yours so that when you go back in the jam--it just comes out. No thought. It's been said so many times, but it's SO true: Learn it, then forget it. You can't speak while trying to think about grammar nor can you play when thinking about theory or technique. It's never going to happen.

    Funny story...

    Back in 2004, right before my oldest son was born, I gotta call from Dave Fiucyznski to sub two days of rehearsals at Symphony Space in the upper west side for a project the great Don Byron was leading. The stage was loaded with names in the jazz, fusion and hip hop worlds. From DJ Logic to Rodney Holmes to Curtis Fowlkes--not to mention Don (!)--this was a major hang. I was the filling in for the only guitar chair in this fairly large ensemble made up of brass, woodwinds, a rhythm section with Latin percussion, turntables, rappers, vocalists--lots going on and a lot to take in. The music was modern arrangements of Sugar Hill Records hits from the early 80's--something very close to my heart indeed. The guitar was a big part of these charts and had some really fun sections to blow on. Well, my time came up in a Grandmaster Flash jam and I got the nod from Don to let it fly. With my trusty '73 Strat, an early model Fuzz Factory, a Whammy II, a touch of analog delay and Fuze's half stack cranked I threw down. I was in it, baby! A zone like no other. I had the most ridiculous rhythm section behind me, DJ Logic dropping his magic and an angled row of master horn players in my periphery playing stabs of glory--all under my improvisatory bliss. No time for scales here boys, I was where I had to be to do this for real. Woot!!

    OK, every watch the Bug Bunny episode where he's the conductor and completely loses it only to hear crickets at the end of his conduction? Well, as my solo rocked on I started to hear everything fall apart--quite quickly actually--until there was kinda just me Whammy-ing away. As I picked my head up and opened my eyes while playing little disjunt snippets of "uh-oh" I look over to the left where Don is right next to me holding his bari only to see that lip smurk people put on when you've done something moronic. Seasoned with a slight shake of the head and accompanied by a row of four other heads leaning over with the same smurk and horns on their lap, Don just goes, "you dun youngblood?"

    That's the zone, guys. When you're in it, take it for the ride of your life. Just don't forget to come back!!!

    BTW, unbeknownst to me Bravo network was there filming a documentary on Don that was aired in Canada. Never saw the episode, but man, I hope that moment went UN-documented
    CB that was the best 2 cents I've ever read and should have Sticky Status entitled "The Message" BRILLIANT

    H
    Worked On: BGSG Course BlogWorking On: 50 R&B Bass Grooves YMK Blog

    Groove long and prosper Tune in to Funk Friday

  10. #10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Buono View Post
    That's the zone, guys. When you're in it, take it for the ride of your life. Just don't forget to come back!!!
    Yep happened to me, 5 min long solo's....in the wrong key

    Then on the other side inspired solo's that build idea upon idea. Then somebody asks you to play that licks again and you go "What lick?"

    Ideally you should have an arsenel of licks that can be called upon if all else fails so if the "zone" aint there then you can piece together some form of solo.

    There is a book that I dip into most nights when I can't sleep called "Free Play" by Stephen Nachmanovitch. It can get a bit "airy" at times but he uses the term "bricolage" which means making do with the material at hand.

    Which in some instances can be limiting yourself to an area of the neck or 1,2,3,4 notes.

    I saw an example of this on Red's solo in "Slow Blues" in "Blues Expose" he limits himself to the G Pentatonic and plays some fantastic blues. It's nothing fancy but sits in the pocket and sounds right.

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