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Interesting short article on the effects of too much information

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by 40Hz, Aug 5, 2017.

  1. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    As bass players, many of us have an acutely analytical approach to music. Chord tone and intervals, scales and modes, timing divisions, "playing in the pocket," "cutting through the mix," whether or not tort affects tone, etc.

    The Open Culture website (highly recommended btw) has a short article on how having too much information at your disposal and overthinking can stifle your best thinking and creativity. Apparently it's also supported by actual neuroscientific research.

    Read it here.
  2. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    I just skimmed through the article, but I think I get the general message. While I can see the point that the article makes, IMO from a musical aspect it is debatable. Perhaps from an everyday living point of view (stress and mental strain etc) the point may be more valid.

    To a beginner starting out on bass ( or any instrument) and learning basic theory, EVERYTHING is "information over load" and the brain has a difficult time trying to make sense of it all. While I agree that over thinking can be a draw back, this is quite different from having TOO MUCH information. The more information we have at our disposal, the better the chances are that we'll become a good all round player. How we digest and use that information is the crux of the issue.

    A new bass player who is keen to learn, has a good teacher, and is willing to put in the hard graft necessary to be proficient on an instrument, will probably over think things ...at the start. Later, provided he sticks to his learning schedule, the playing/theory relationship will become second nature, and everything will come naturally without a second thought. Information (regardless of quantity) in and of itself, never held anyone back. Being able to hold on to that information and to utilise it to the full, is where the skill lies.

    In some ways the article reminds me of the ...."too much theory stifles creativity..." concept that comes up from time to time. ;)
    Russell L and Nashrakh like this.
  3. Badwater


    Jan 12, 2017
    In most cases people who struggle with learning often need people telling them exactly what to do. Hence the abundance of information of people telling others what to do. Likewise, those who learn well, learn things on their own without the need for people telling them what to do each step of the way. They just figure it out in their heads.
  4. monsterthompson

    monsterthompson The Eighth Note Wonder Of The World

    Nov 25, 2008
    Not unlike this pearl of wisdom:

    I've seen/heard discussion of people making bad decisions when overwhelmed with data. Shampoo companies lost business by offering too many varieties of shampoo, resulting in customers going to competitors with simpler product lines. People make poorer and poorer in investment choices as their 401k plans offer more and more funds.

    This isn't a new concept, but it still isn't known by many people. I can see the application in music. I often have to change my thinking when going from writing, to recording, to mixing. When I try to do it all in one shot, I end up screwing up everything, and coming away with nothing. Whereas, focusing on writing while writing often lets me be more productive. Focusing on playing while recording frees me from rethinking my note choices.

    This certainly isn't a substitute for learning your craft. Ignorance may be bliss, but it doesn't usually produce results by itself.
  5. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Theory has never stifled my creativity. Before I ever knew any and made things up by ear, once I later learned some theory and found out what those things were it only helped me create more things. Actually, it helped me become more creative. By knowing what was normal, then I knew what to do to create something not normal.

    Too much info to me is something more like when an amp has too many controls. Or, like when I try to pick a paint color from the hundreds of choices displayed at the store. Too many to choose from.
  6. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Folks who play by ear only know lots of theory whether they realize it or not. They just don't have names for it.
  7. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    Good thing it was short or it would've really messed up my creative process.

    Just kidding. Actually, for me it's starting to be about learning to use the information that I'm acquiring in a creative way. Once I've learned a concept I want to find a use for it.

    Rev J
  8. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    They may USE it, but if they don't realise what they are doing, it is not of much benefit to them.
  9. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I don't think knowledge of theory is what the article is talking about (or a correct application thereof). It's talking about overstimulation, distraction, and mental clutter, not detailed knowledge of a subject. Those studies aren't saying that Einstein was prevented from any really creative thought in physics because he knew too much about the subject. They're saying that he DID achieve very creative insights because he wasn't constantly getting beeped at by Snapchat notifications and breaking news alerts and You've Got Mail. The mind needs space and some quiet to process really serious insights or creative leaps.
    Lobster11, LarryBama, PillO and 3 others like this.
  10. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    When I said "theory" I was thinking more in terms of over analysis and over categorization/definition. But your point is well taken.

    FWIW I don't agree with everything in that article. But I found it an interesting springboard for thought.
    hrodbert696 likes this.
  11. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    But they do use it by recognizing the sounds and visual patterns.
  12. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Yes, of course. I just couldn't resist.
  13. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    What he said.

    That being said, I agree. The average human being takes in more information today in 24 hours than our grandparents did in a month. We don't seem to be a whole lot smarter for it though.

    I know for me that back in the 80s, when I had a Tascam Porta One, I cranked out a song every other week. When digital recording emerged I bought one of the first on the market - Digidesign's Session 8. I had SO MUCH more control when I got that. I still put out lots of material, maybe a dozen songs a year. It was still very simple though, my EQ on each channel consisting of bass and treble only if I remember correctly. Then came Cubase, and the Internet. I learned how to use Cubase LTD, got tons of tutorials, yada, yada.... my output dropped to about 4 songs a year.

    To make a long story short, I finally bought the full Cubase package - and that was the end of my song making. Haven't recorded an original piece in over 3 years.

    The only way I managed writing the book I did last year was by my quitting Talkbass and Facebook for a few months.

    Bla, bla, bla.....

    I really want to quit the internet, or learn to curb my habit, bigtime.

    FWIW, I feel people who weren't around before the internet don't really have anything to compare themselves with. They might easily say this stuff doesn't get in the way of their creativity, but how could they possibly know? Unless they quit it for a few months to see what would happen.

    Feel like I'm wasting time rambling right now. So much more I could say.....
  14. dhbailey52


    Feb 20, 2017
    The phrase "paralysis by analysis" is one I've heard frequently and I find that to be true. One of the things that having a teacher can do (if the teacher is any good) is to help filter out the information which isn't important, leaving only the important information for the student to work with. And of course, different teachers feel that different sets of information are important, so sometimes a student needs to change teachers to find the correct set of information that actually helps that student. Really good teachers are flexible and tailor different information sets for different students, based on what any particular student works best with. One of the problems with all the information that's available on-line for any subject is that there's nobody filtering it for any specific person looking to learn more.

    My advice for people trying to teach themselves is to find a good book like the much-discussed Hal Leonard Bass Method complete edition with the CDs included and work through that without trying to find on-line videos to "help." There is so much conflicting information, all of it useful to somebody and much of it coming from fantastic bassists who are trying to explain what they're doing, that a newbie has no way of knowing which of the sets of conflicting instructions will actually help him/her.

    The best advice is to find a local teacher to work with and wait before looking online for additional information unless the teacher specifically mentions one specific video to watch. Only after a person is comfortable playing easy songs either along with recordings or with live musicians should a person begin to find more information online. After a person has developed a foundation and is comfortable with it will they know if something new will help or hurt.

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