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Flea & Theory??

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by bassduder, Apr 5, 2002.

  1. bassduder


    Jul 30, 2001
    Canada, GF-W
    i was wondering if anyone has talked to Flea after a show or know about his knowledge of music, because i watched the chilis new dvd, off the map, and his imrpov was amazing, and i remember awile back reading that he knows no theory...so has he recently learned anything or what...he must know something to be doing the stuff he was doing
  2. Ari Schor

    Ari Schor Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2000
    well...he says he does it all by feel, but i'm pretty sure he has studied theory since the BP interview seven years ago...he said he wanted to...
  3. I had heard that his father was a jazz musician, and he grew up playing the trumpet. Of course, that was from VH1 "Behind the Music", so consider the source.
  4. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    He claims in his instructional video that he knows nothing about theory. I know nothing really about theory (I'd like to learn and keep trying but I've got some kind of mental block) - and I can get around the bass quite nicely. I think if your doing it long enough, have a good ear, and know the general basics - you can play your butt off without ever picking up a theory book. That's what I think. No. That's what I know cuz I don't know any theory - and I play my butt off (with all due humility of course).
  5. EString


    Nov 20, 2000
    Los Altos, CA
    Although I absolutely ADORE Flea, I think he's leading us on with his "I don't know no stinkin' theory" schtick.

    Watch the "Off the Map" DVD. When Flea is improvising, he doesn't just move one finger to the next note one at a time, he uses chord shapes.

    I assure you, Flea knows much more theory than he would care for us to know about.
  6. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    A good ear can make up for lack of theory when playing anything. Knowing theory does NOT make someone good at improv, nor does improv imply they know theory. In this case, his ear is just good enough and he's been playing long enough that he knows how to get a certain sound out of his bass (ie, what notes to play ;)) to define a certain tonality. He doesn't necessarily have to know theory, he just has to have had played his butt off for years and years.

    If he knows theory, great. If he doesn't, great. Who cares? Being a good improvisationalist doesn't require theory. Theory is just the written "rules" of how one can and should hear both in their head and in a song, and how to translate that to their respective instrument. A very good ear and lots of experience can make up for lack of that, though.
  7. bassduder


    Jul 30, 2001
    Canada, GF-W
    i come to agree with EString and like relman said...in a BP mag from years ago he said he planned on leanring theory, and if im correct on this, i dont believe before that interview where he said he knew nothing, there was any live jams between the band...so im thinking maybe thats why there are always frequent jams and much more improv these days from flea, john and chad because of his recent knowledge of theory...but then again...flea is a mofo?! :D
  8. Ryan L.

    Ryan L. Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2000
    West Fargo, ND

    Good point.
  9. LifeSpitter

    LifeSpitter Guest

    Apr 6, 2002
    Bass Heaven
    Just because he uses chord shapes doesnt mean he knows theory...Basically he could have just learned them and picked up the ear for throwing them in when he wants to. The guitarist im my band is absolutely sick at soloing and he doesnt know theory,...just scales(like the back of his hand).
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think there's a misunderstanding going on here - if you know scales then you know theory. All that theory is basically, is just explaining what sounds good in certain contexts and scales are the basis of nearly all theory!

    I think you have to take into account that as confident as he appears, Flea might still be intimdated by getting up there and putting himself on the line; when he probably knows very well that there are hundreds and possibly thousands of musicians who know more about the stuff he's playing.

    So he's probably thinking - compared to his influences he knows nothing about the theory of this music and that if you want to know "funk bass" for example, you should be talking to Bootsy or Larry Graham or any number of great players - so he's not going to say - "I know everything" - so he's just being self-deprecating, in the hope he won't get too much "flak" from fellow musicians! ;)
  11. LifeSpitter

    LifeSpitter Guest

    Apr 6, 2002
    Bass Heaven
    Well i dont really consider scales theory(though i guess they are). I hear theory and i think modes and such......

    But whatever,...Peace
  12. jalepina

    jalepina Guest

    Mar 6, 2002
    SW Colorado
    Flea is awesome.. who cares if he knows theory or not?

    I've read many times his Dad was in a jazz band. And yes, Flea definitely did play trumpet growing up... a taste of this is on the Mother's Milk album, "Taste the Pain" and "Pretty Little Ditty".

    My father is a guitar player, my brother played drums, I was in band and choir as a young teen. I wouldn't say I've sat around studying music theory.. but there are things instilled in my brain about music. Maybe this is the case with Flea. So if he says he doesn't know theory, let it be!

    Flea = BASS GoD
  13. dhuffguitars

    dhuffguitars Luthier/Bass Wanker depending on your opinion

    Sep 18, 2001
    It was his step dad. And he has been playing trumpet forever, so a lot of what he learned in school carried over.
  14. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Hey, while on the subject of Flea dads, did ya'll know that Sonny Bona was like a father figure to him - oops, that was Anthony Keidas. Never mind.

    I'll leave that here for trivia sake anyhow
  15. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Modes modes modes. That word gets thrown around a lot here. When I think "theory" I think music. If someone were to press me for something more detailed I'd probably say harmony and function.
  16. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Surely theory is anything theoretical to do with music?

    Flea does know theory, I agree with whoever above who said that he is probably being humble... and maybe avoiding theory questions in interviews?!
  17. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    I have an interview with John Frusciante of RHCP from a couple years ago. He was talking about his music in terms of theory. Even about him and Flea working on a song in terms of theory.

    Here's part of what he had to say about things, after being questioned on theory: "I think of music that way, but only insofar as it relates to the color of what I'm doing. I don't think of 'theory' and 'color' as being two separate things...I looked at what [punk guitar players] were doing in a technical way. I thought of the theory behind the colors that they were doing-why they chose the notes that they chose-using music theory..."

    What I'm trying to express is that Flea may not know theory. If you asked him to play the relative minor of the A Major scale, maybe he won't know it. But the thing is, and this is with every musician who says they don't know theory, what it all comes down to, is whatever Flea writes can be explained in terms of theory whether he realizes it or not. Maybe he doesn't even know what chord he's playing in a certain song, but that doesn't mean he's not playing that chord. Theory will always be there.
  18. kcdbass


    Feb 27, 2002
    anyone who wants to play like flea just needs to learn how to wring the pentatonic scale to death ...

    he's great at what he does though ... just an observation ... please, no flames ... i wish i could play like flea ...

    aw, heck ... isn't 90% of rock-n-roll pentatonic anyway?

  19. Jontom


    Mar 11, 2002
    New York
    O.K. Watson...Lets use our powers of deduction. Flea(Michael Balzary) is somewhat of a trumpet player in addition to his bass skills...In an acceptance speech for a music award, he said "Listen to Coltrane". This would say to me that he probably has learned a "head"(jazz melody) or two from "listening to (John) Coltrane"...he perhaps learned these tunes on the trumpet. Who among all of the jazz greats is commonly known as a brilliant theorician...John Coltrane. So it stands to reason that melodies learned on the trumpet were transfered to the bass(we've all done that haven't we?). Hence through a roundabout process...Flea knows theory. Elementary my dear Watson!
  20. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    "But the thing is..." etc...

    Yeah, I know what you mean, but I think he does know the actual theory - I think he has a damned good idea what note will go under what chords etc...
    When he improvises live sometimes he runs up & down the neck - that's a risky thing to do live if you dont know what notes fit where!

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