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Learning in Music, etc

Matthias: "while the learning really comes from playing, and for this, I
contribute with instruments and music :-)"

Isn't this the truth! If I could only execute half the theoretical music
and jazz theory academia in my brain, I'd be.....eh, well, a player who
thinks too much and plays too many notes in performances? ;)

Seriously, however, I am a huge proponent of learning in music and
applying in performance. I think many musicians, including myself, after
years of growing on our instruments begin to rest on our laurels and
don't push ourselves anymore. I can hear it in the playing of myself and
others. After a while we become cover musicians of our own clichés and
performance styles.  Sure, we learn new gimmicks, tricks, and clichés,
but I find that actual significant leaps in personal musical growth are
difficult after playing for 25 years. It is easy to use gear (looping
included) to hide behind this fact, but if we remove all the loops,
gear, effects, and alterations, and then gaze upon the naked notes and
raw playing, what is the net gain?  If we remove the approving "ooohs
and awwws" of what we've done with our technical savvy, what have we
accomplished artistically? (these are rhetorical questions, by the way)

My last big spurt was when I joined a World-Beat band, in which I also
learned the sitar.  I pushed myself to learn new harmonic textures
(Eastern, Middle-Eastern, etc) and rhythms....and that learning has
stuck with me for the long run.  And several years before that it was
jazz, the biggest leap in my musical vocabulary and expansion of my
musical palette(again, that painting analogy) to eexpressmyself.  One
could ask, "who the heck cares that you can play a melodic minor scale a
half step aabove an altered dominant chord to generate interesting
tension and release with flat 9s, flat 5s, etc?"  Well, at the moment,
that bit of theory would seem pedantic, but after one internalizes and
consciously "forgets" the approach during live performances, it can
still influence your playing and musical vocabulary to express more
effectively.  It's the old saying about theory...learn it, internalize
it, and then forget it.

One of my guitar mentors once said in a video if you can just spend 10
minutes a day learning something new on your instrument, whether it is a
new chord, scale, or improvisational technique, you can improve
tremendously over time. It doesn't necessarily require that Julliard
8-hour a day routine. This is easier said than done, of course...at the
end of the day, what I've done is tweaked more knobs, modified more
parameters, and screwed with more MP3 files than actually improving as a

On accation, we should all lock ourselves in a room for a week with
nothing but an acoustic instrument and tape recorder and see if we come
out with something new in the end.  Of course, by that time, some smart
ass would have re-wired the tape recorder to be a looping device!  Heh

Krispen Hartung