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What about Improvised music!?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Guss, Nov 30, 2002.

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  1. Talkbass is full of talk of Theory and sheet music, rules and techniques, tab evil and something else that I can't think of right now. Nobody ever brings up the sheer joy of playing improvised music! How depressing. It seems we get all tied up in being "serious musicians" that I get a vibe that our members are too good to do anything less than hard, dedicated theory study, and tedious song writing and composing to play at their gigs.
    Am I wrong? I haven't been a member for to long on this site, so I might be missing something. Why is it never brought up or discussed? I mean, I don't know what we would talk about, but don't you think its funny that it's almost never brought up?
  2. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I'm not entirly sure what you mean by "improvised music." Jazz is improvised, but most jazz musicians have a profound grasp of music theory, because knowing theory gives them so many more choices about what to play.

    By improvised music, do you mean just getting together with a group of fellow musicians and jamming freely, playing any riff or rhythm or chord progression that comes to someone's mind? Even in that context, a knowledge of music theory would be of infinite assistance.

    Or maybe you are referring to a type of improvisation employed by metal musicians whose music often does not follow common chord progressions, has several key changes and breakneck tempo switches. Often these musicians do not know music theory, play what they please when it pleases them and cannot even name the notes on their fretboards, don't know what key if any they are using, but play by "sound." They could not transcribe their own music and don't read music. Some don't even read tab.

    I've played with some guys like that. They had some pretty good stuff too if you are a nu-metal fan.

    Yet you refer to improvisation in a gig, so it seems like there would be some structure or you might lose your audience unless they are big free jazz buffs. Do you mean jam band improvisation such as Blues Traveler or Phish?

    Many at TalkBass do have an extensive background in theory, music composition and arranging, are "classicaly trained", or have attended music school, but I bet many more do not. Maybe you are right...the more vocal posters here speak out often about esoteric aspects of music, but we have many beginners
    here and we have many posters who play in bands without having had music degrees or even having had one class with a teacher.

    It would help move this discussion along if you would tell us more about how you do improvise. Also, I'd like to hear from others who feel the way you do. Sometimes we do hear criticisms here from those who call some members "jazz snobs". Maybe those folks would like to speak up about what you have said. This could be a very spirited discussion.
  3. improvization(sp?) rules. i have just about no "classical" knowledge of music. i know where notes are on my fretboard, yes, and I can read sheet music to a certain extent, but I have no training in theory and that kinda stuff. I just like to sit down with a pal or two and play. This doesn't mean we play "nu-metal". People like my friends and I, who "play what they please when it pleases them" aren't necessarily metalheads who are completely devoid of any musical talent. And not knowing what key you're in doesn't mean you can't play. I don't feel the need to restrict my playing in any way; I like to sit down with my friend and play. It's fun, and it does what music should do for me, it makes me feel good and alive and happy to be alive. Maybe that sounds corny, but that's what i'm all about. I don't play music so i can study it and analyze it and pick it apart until it's like biology or chemistry. i just let what happens happen.
    I'm sure about thirty people will say "learn the rules first so you know how to break them" or something to that effect. That's great; you can do that if you want to. But i'm perfectly content, at least for now, to jam with my friend in his room and get a little stoned and have fun with our art; music. that's my form of recreation. I'm perfectly capable of following form also; that's what i do with my band. But when I improvise and jam, I just go.
    that's my personal approach to and take of improv. maybe i'm way out of focus and don't know what i'm talking about, but maybe somewhere in my incoherent ramblings someone can find a pearl of wisdom(but probably not). all I know is that I like what i do. So i do it. That's what making music is, to me.
  4. I'm talking about the kind of improvisation found mostly in Jazz bands. If you ever hear a band who does this really well, It's AMAZING. And I tend to improvise in this way. I've always leaned towards jazz, and most of my playing is actulally a freestyle improvasation session. During these sessions, I come up with some very nice riffs.
    As for the comment on the "tightness" of our members(no offense in what I just said) and the way they go on and on about "Theory" and "You HAVE to get this scale down, and learn it all!" There have been hints many times on this sight that you can't become a good musician, or just not as good as somebody who knows theory, if you are uneducated musically. I apologize, but that's ridiculos(can't spell, can I?:D ). Although theory does help you in your improvised playing, it is not essential and you can achieve just as good playing as someone who knows it.
    Everyones brain works differently. I once heard someone on this sight say(I think it be Jazzbo) you can't improve your playing by just noodling for two hours straight. Or can you? This goes into my "Everyones brain works differently" argument. Their is always more than one way to learn. Some people learn better visually, as with reading and studying, and some people do better with a hands on aproach, by exploring(notice how thats more respectable term than "noodling"?") their instrument, seeing how it works, and tweaking their style. IMO their is always different routes you brain takes to achieve a new skill.
    And with that, I will lead back to improvised music. Even though it is improvised, the pro jazz players who just go up there and do it, don't just pick up one gig and say "Hmmm, I guess I will improvise this one". They practice it, they train their brain to work on a moments notice, on a completely black page, and just go. I think "noodling" is just as important as formal practice.
    The last thing I'll say in THIS post is:
    Sometimes it seems that we treat "Theory" as the main meat, that is aided by the music within us, well it should be the other way around.

    P.S. Please, someone please get this discussion going, I really want to talk about it. I know my membership is only a couple of months old, but don't make me a thread killer again.:(
  5. punkfunkfreak


    Dec 16, 2001
    I cannot do anything technical apart from read TAB and follow a blues scale. If you could call that technical. In fact id probably fit into boplicitys "nu-metal" band background description.

    I can improvise till the cows come home. Granted, it might not always work...and i cant do it under pressure. I would still benefit from theory. It would obviously help me because itd kinda tell me what patterns fit together..e.t.c. But i have no real urge to learn sheet music...(yet ;))

    So, yeh,...um...i just think its a different approach. I dont think it makes a fundamental difference either way. Its up to the determination of the player.

  6. Theory = The Key to Improvisation.
  7. Dave Castelo

    Dave Castelo

    Apr 19, 2000
    theory makes great improvisation tools, PERIOD.

    ps: stop whinning
  8. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I agree completely with snaggletooth. But learning theory does not mean that you have to play jazz or in any "correct" style. You can apply music theory in any situation. Learning it will never hurt you...
  9. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Mr. Morse, I have no doubt that you feel great joy in your improvisational sessions with your friend. Some of the best fun I ever had as a musician was in a hot, smelly garage in which several of us experimented with our music and came up with some pretty cool stuff. No one ever asked what key we were in or what was the chord progression.

    However, that said, I don't think having a thorough knowledge of theory is a joy-killer either. I bet Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and many of today's top jazz players and classical players regularly experience joy in their playing too. I mean what else could sustain them?

    In music, there are no hard and fast rules. Fun is what music should be about. Those who feel constrained or intimidated by theory have as much right to explore music in their own way as those who enjoy using theory as a stepping stone to their enjoyment.
  10. lump


    Jan 17, 2000
    St. Neots, UK
    I think the best part of being musically ignorant is that you can still have loads of fun and not even realize that you totally suck.

    Sure beats practicing.
  11. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    :D :D :D
  12. Terry, no offense, but from this and the other thread you recently posted, it just sounds to me as if you urgently want someone to tell you that theory doesn't matter, it's readily dispensable, and you can do anything you want without it. It sounds--forgive me--as if you are seeking validation for not knowing it well.

    But, speaking for myself alone, I just can't tell you theory isn't important. I can't denigrate knowledge that helps you understand not only what has been done but how you can build on what's done to create your own thing. You seem to think theory is a prison, but it's a tool. How you use it is up to you.

    And if you want to talk about improvisation in the setting of jazz, that's not at all a strong argument against the value of theory. Jazz musicians, by and large, are among the best-schooled musicians I know. As well as the best improvisers. That by itself should tell you that knowledge of theory doesn't, in and of itself, cripple creativity or improvisational ability but in fact tends, more often than not, to enable it. A pro jazz player who "just goes" on the gig is "going" on a strong and deep knowledge of how the music works--NOT just noodling.

    All that said, this doesn't mean you can't create valid and enjoyable musical experiences the way you're talking about. But I honestly believe that there are things you most likely can't get to without knowing more. And that knowing more won't hurt your spontaneity, your creativity, or anything else you value unless you don't know how to use the tool (i.e., theory) you've acquired.
  13. Dave Castelo

    Dave Castelo

    Apr 19, 2000
    I love you* ;) :eek: :D

    *and your posts
  14. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Ok, let's play through Giant Steps. I'll bet that you can't achive even close to "as good playing" as someone who knows theory. Hell, you won't get through "Girl From Ipanema".

    Try me.
  15. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Word, word, triple word. Amen.
  16. punkfunkfreak


    Dec 16, 2001
    Ill have to respectfully disagree there, pacman.
    Although im not gonna change anyones mind so i wont go into it.

  17. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    disagree all you want. You post an MP3 of you playing through the changes of any standard. I think the results will speak for themselves.
  18. punkfunkfreak


    Dec 16, 2001
    with a year and a half of bassplaying behind me? you must be kidding!

    i just think that a person with say 15 years of experience in bass that knows all his/her theory can be just as good as someone with 15 years of experience that knows none.

    as you see im disagreeing all i want ;)
  19. Ahem! Ahem!
    I do know theory, quite extensilvly. I have a teacher that I study with. I have had that teacher for a few years now. But I think what is important with theory, is that every once in a while, we need to forget about it, all of it, and just play. See what comes out, don't worry if it sounds bad. Who are trying to impress? What, do you think it's not worthy? Worthy of what, or whom?
    I'm just saying we should take a different approach to music, thats all.
    Don't even try to hint that I don't practice. I make a point to practice several hours a day. Every once in a while, I forget the theory I learn, and my playing changes drastically.
    With that said, theory is a very valuble tool in music, every one should be at least familar with it's aspects, but alot of people on this site seem to think that it is the end-all, be-all of playing, that's just not true.

    NO! ha,ha! I'm still feeling the affect of my, "Thread killa!" thread. My therapist says I'll get over it soon enough. (Where are my pills?):D


    P.S. Is it fun to call me "Mr. Morse"? I think it sounds cool too! Maybe I'll change my username.....:D

    once again: b/h
  20. you have to know the rules in order to break them properly. if you think you are actually "forgetting" theory at any time, you're kidding yourself.

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