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#2843270 - 03/20/17 08:40 PM Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines.
Barryjam Offline
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Registered: 10/03/05
Posts: 216
Loc: Auburn, Northern CA
In another thread, I revealed that I was a Psychologist in my day gig prior to retirement. Now, I'm the one needing help!

I've got a really good ear for melody lines and chords, and a strong work ethic, but my reading is not great, and my writing notes as cues is worse. So I am the new keyboardist in a 12-piece horn band, doing stuff like Chicago, TOP, etc. These are new old songs for me.

I can certainly get through the tunes, but I'm feeling compelled to not only play the pretty exact solos (which I'm OK with) but also the particular sequence of comping rhythms and chords. For instance, in TOP's "You're Still a Young Man," it is not enough for me to just play Bbb9 arpeggios at the end of verse progressions, I find myself practicing the exact arpeggios or chord inversions from the original recordings, which change from verse to verse. Then I get to rehearsal, and, surprise, surprise, I get through the song correctly but don't have muscle memory of which comping lines go where. But why am I not ecstatic that I can get through the tune without a trainwreck??? I have no such UCD about 3 chord songs, thank goodness.

Is it excellence or sickness to get into 30 songs at this level of perfectionism, and would I be better off spending practice time on general chops rather than song perfection? And actually just trust my own interpretations more. How do you all deal with this in new band learning?
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#2843274 - 03/20/17 08:45 PM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: Barryjam]
cphollis Online   content
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All that matters is that you bring game. How you do that is completely up to you.

My situation: lots of bands who play stuff with signature parts, all good, but if I can come up with something better than the original, I go for it.

Just want to make my mark..
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#2843275 - 03/20/17 08:53 PM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: Barryjam]
timwat Offline
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Registered: 11/21/01
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Hey Barry -

What are the expectations of the band leader?

Presuming you're doing fine by him (and the stated objectives of the band), then it sounds like it's your own high standards and set of expectations. Which is not a bad thing, in the long run.

Being able to nail the correct voicings, voice leading, and other lines is part of the art of being the flexible KB player, in my opinion. I think in function bands we're called to do more than comp everything on a stock Rhodes patch (not that you're doing that...but plenty of folks here in the Bay Area are lazy suckers).

Whether you choose to play verbatim to the original recording is then up to your discretion (and whatever is appropriate for the band and gig), but if you never learn the sig part correctly, then playing them correctly is never an option.

At the same time, I have learned things about my playing, where I am weak and where I need to woodshed by failing at my first efforts to cop parts off the record. And that is never a bad thing, even if the specific band doesn't care.

I would say, in general, that your standard of excellence is never getting through the tune without a train wreck, but rather playing something so good and you that it reaches someone out there. That's not always easy to do, depending on the band and the gig. But our reach should always exceed our grasp, yes?

As far as excellence vs. perfectionism - well, that's another topic that falls into your other area of specialization - isn't an inordinate need for control (and it's roots) the real cause of classic perfectionism? That's your PowerPoint, and you can run with that from there.

I'm not qualified to answer if you should be working on general chops or specific songs - haven't had the pleasure of hearing you play yet.

As far as learning tunes - my own personal practice is learn all the changes and the form, then identify primary keyboard parts (some might call these the "signature" parts), and make sure I'm covering them. From there it becomes personal choice and discretion how doggedly I'm going to pursue secondary and tertiary parts.

For many of my gigs these days, they're "jazz-informed" - I bring a healthy amount of interpretation to the gig, and that's sort of the reason I get called to particular situations these days. I'm no longer the guy that's going to carbon copy 90% of the record; while I have an ENORMOUS amount of respect for the ear, skills and programming ability of those who approach their gigs that way, it's simply not me anymore.

I'm more drawn to spend the discretionary hours exploring the magic of Keith Jarrett's takes on Over the Rainbow than spend them programming every patch, sound and line of a pop band's original recording. And that's just me.

Tim
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#2843279 - 03/20/17 09:02 PM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: cphollis]
MathOfInsects Offline
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Registered: 02/04/15
Posts: 2470
Loc: California
I am NOT a psychologist, but this comment....

Quote:
But why am I not ecstatic that I can get through the tune without a trainwreck??? I have no such UCD about 3 chord songs, thank goodness.


...makes me wonder if there's not an underlying sense or fear that you're not up to the task with this material. Not trusting your own instincts (because perhaps you feel that you do not yet have instincts for this?) would explain why you'd find comfort in learning and nailing the existing parts...and why, after doing so, you might feel as though you were just holding on for dear life--or fearing that even if you nailed them, you still somehow got something wrong that you don't even know about yet.

Comfort will come. If nailing the recorded parts gets you there, there is no reason to change anything you're doing. But if you're exactly as unhappy with the nailed parts as you would be other impromptu ones "inspired by" the original recordings, then might as well let go of the wall and float out there in the pool for awhile, at least as an experiment, even if you end up discovering you like the wall better after all.
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#2843285 - 03/20/17 09:35 PM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: MathOfInsects]
Barryjam Offline
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Registered: 10/03/05
Posts: 216
Loc: Auburn, Northern CA
All helpful comments! Tim, I'm quite confident that the band leader(s) are very happy with my playing in general, and I'm quite convinced that they don't know and don't notice the things I'm obsessing about. Yes, I've also been a stickler in the past about programming sounds. Ha, I just replaced my S90es with a CP4, wonderful for sound quality and technique, but I can no longer program the pitch slide in Uptown Funk! Well, the world will continue to turn.

MathofInsects, I absolutely have the underlying fear that I'm not up to the task! And comfort is coming, where I felt the best I have after this weekend's rehearsal. I actually believe that I will ultimately be an improved piece of this band, but I think this is because nobody works harder than I do. But my playing can be a little tense because it matters so much to me.
Cyphollis, I think I will continue to strive for signature parts, and bring MY game to the band, and it is helpful to hear that encouragement.

See, I feel better already!
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#2843287 - 03/20/17 09:39 PM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: Barryjam]
Barryjam Offline
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Registered: 10/03/05
Posts: 216
Loc: Auburn, Northern CA
and Tim, it is wonderful idea to get beyond getting by and actually touch someone with my playing. These band members are helpful to each other about suggesting that level can come for each of us, heck, a year from now, as we get into the performance and the synergy that live musical communication can provide.
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#2843345 - 03/21/17 05:28 AM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: Barryjam]
WesG Offline
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Registered: 02/16/13
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Loc: Inverary, ON, Canada
You're more likely to be groovy playing something comfortable than somebody else's lines.

Doesn't mean you shouldn't learn them, but if they don't become part of you, then they're not part of you. You dig?

Be groovy. That's what people in the audience care about. If they wanted exact reproductions of the recordings, they'd be sitting at home listening to the record through $3000 headphones and debating the benefits of directional copper.
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#2843358 - 03/21/17 06:29 AM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: WesG]
Dave Bryce Administrator Offline
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Originally Posted By: WesG
You're more likely to be groovy playing something comfortable than somebody else's lines.

Doesn't mean you shouldn't learn them, but if they don't become part of you, then they're not part of you. You dig?

Be groovy. That's what people in the audience care about. If they wanted exact reproductions of the recordings, they'd be sitting at home listening to the record through $3000 headphones and debating the benefits of directional copper.


What Wes said.

dB
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#2843368 - 03/21/17 07:00 AM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: Barryjam]
SkiGuy777 Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 02/19/17
Posts: 137
I've played "You're Still A Young Man" by TOP live in another band. The arpeggio part going up can be done by playing it with the right hand, and the top note with the left. Layering the strings over the piano is what I did for the other part. This is on the Korg 01W with a slider controlling the strings. (Combination A36).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLK9lMzX7GM
No one is going to notice the subtle difference in the arpeggio part because the vocals are going with the phrase "Don't waste your TIME..." If it's the other arpeggio part you're talking about, then the vocals are singing the word "Baby." I played that one the same every time with the right hand. But you need to crank the strings for the other part, then drop them out when the verse starts and you're back to piano.

In the song Uptown Funk, I use the pitch bend stick set to a full octave. The sound I'm using is a spacey patch called Solar Eyes (A65) combination that rises an octave. I play octave D down low with my left hand, grab the stick with my right hand, and slowly move it up. Once that's done I hit the Prog button and go back to the synth sound which is A68 (Analog Synth).
Skip to 04:00 of this video for Uptown Funk.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQQq4xYdnM0
For some reason I played the stabs backwards. It's supposed to be high then low, I was backwards but I doubt anyone else noticed except me. Uptown Funk is tricky because I'm also playing left hand bass along with the real bass player. So after I do a swipe with the left hand and play the Dm stab with the right, I have to get my left hand all the way back down and continue playing the bass.

Hope this helps.


Edited by SkiGuy777 (03/21/17 11:54 AM)
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#2843369 - 03/21/17 07:01 AM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: Dave Bryce]
Outkaster Offline
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Registered: 02/25/06
Posts: 5664
Loc: Rochester, NY
I would say if it is a tribute band get it as close as possible because the end product will suffer especially when it's signature lines. People like music as it was presented to them and even if they are not musicians I find they can tell when something is off.
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#2843375 - 03/21/17 07:13 AM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: Outkaster]
steve campito Offline
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Registered: 10/22/01
Posts: 97
Loc: United States/NY
Barry, do your own thing. Even the player in the band that recorded a particular song doesn't play it the same every time. If a band leader wants it exactly like the record let him play a karaoke track. After 40 plus years playing professionally I feel I have created my own style and feel. You can drive yourself nuts trying to mimic someone else. I'm sure TOP's keyboard player doesn't play his parts exactly like Chester Thompson. Every time I listen to a video of theirs the keys are different from the original. Relax and just do your thing, no one else is you!

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#2843389 - 03/21/17 07:39 AM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: steve campito]
vonnor Offline
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Registered: 01/02/14
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Loc: Centreville, VA USA
I've always tried my best to get as close as possible to the original keyboard sounds and parts, mainly because that's my own personal enjoyment and challenge.

Like Tim, I'll learn the changes and structure first, chord voicings and 'signature' parts second, then any other keyboard part that might be hangin' around the mix (if technically playable). To start I use tones that are close, then tweak them as I go.

~ vonnor
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#2843395 - 03/21/17 08:09 AM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: steve campito]
Bob L Offline
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Registered: 10/14/11
Posts: 382
I think it is a given that the audience is unlikely to notice the difference between nailing everything exactly as the original recording and something very close. So in my view it comes down to what you enjoy. If you get a quiet satisfaction from knowing you nailed the original part, then it is positive and keep doing it.

However, if the investment is not really making you happy, then I would change approach. There is only so many hours in a day, so investing the time you do in nailing each note could be put into non musical things, or perhaps learning another style of music or playing more solo piano, or putting time into fundamentals like scales, etc. that would make all of your playing improve. If the band leader is driving you to this perfection then I would consider finding another band!
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#2843408 - 03/21/17 08:43 AM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: Bob L]
PianoMan51 Offline
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Quote from Ricky Nelson:

"You can't please everyone, so might as well please yourself."

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#2843410 - 03/21/17 08:46 AM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: WesG]
Jazz+ Offline
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Registered: 05/15/04
Posts: 5443
Originally Posted By: WesG
You're more likely to be groovy playing something comfortable than somebody else's lines.

Doesn't mean you shouldn't learn them, but if they don't become part of you, then they're not part of you. You dig?

Be groovy. That's what people in the audience care about. If they wanted exact reproductions of the recordings, they'd be sitting at home listening to the record through $3000 headphones and debating the benefits of directional copper.


Yes! Autonomy.
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#2843447 - 03/21/17 11:37 AM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: Jazz+]
Barryjam Offline
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Registered: 10/03/05
Posts: 216
Loc: Auburn, Northern CA
Thanks, everyone. I'm committed to learning signature lines that create instant recognition, and I do regard the learning of SOME comping chord sequences and voice leading as a chops challenge that is good for my growth.

I learn songs mainly from the software, Transcribe, which allows me to slow MP3s and MP4s down, continuously loop section I'm working on, remove the vocal via putting stereo out of phase, just hear one side, etc. It allows me to view the MP4 video of the loop, which is really helpful to watch fingering. Best $39 I ever spent. But the "downside" is now I can hear all kinds of parts that would have been masked. In the 60s, I had to drop and lift the needle on the vinyl.

To do this in moderation and to see what becomes "my own" is seems to be the prevailing advice here, and I appreciate it.
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#2843449 - 03/21/17 11:39 AM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: SkiGuy777]
Barryjam Offline
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Registered: 10/03/05
Posts: 216
Loc: Auburn, Northern CA
SkiGuy, those youtubes look to go to your editing page and not to the videos you wanted me to see.
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Home: Steinway L, Bob Schleicher A100 chop, 142 Leslie.

Gigs: Yamaha CP4, Crumar Mojo 61, Ventilator II. Lounsbury H&F. A&H QUsb mixer, Crown & QSC amps, JBL SRX-700 series speakers

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#2843452 - 03/21/17 11:47 AM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: Barryjam]
HammondDave Offline
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Registered: 01/20/08
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Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Easy... Is it "iconic"? Then play it as written. For instance, the into to Light My Fire.

Otherwise, have fun with it.
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#2843453 - 03/21/17 11:52 AM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: Barryjam]
SkiGuy777 Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 02/19/17
Posts: 137
Originally Posted By: Barryjam
SkiGuy, those youtubes look to go to your editing page and not to the videos you wanted me to see.

I see that now. Try these links.
You're Still A Young Man
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLK9lMzX7GM

Uptown Funk at the 04:00 mark.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQQq4xYdnM0
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#2843460 - 03/21/17 12:18 PM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: Barryjam]
counterpoint Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 07/24/13
Posts: 38
Barry...feel your pain...I'm the same way. But worse, I find myself expecting the rest of the band to do the same. Last band I was in had been together ten years with another keyboardist before I joined. I know how to play guitar well enough to pick up parts...the two guitarist would often both just play the same part...they hadn't listened to the recordings and split the parts up. We had horns too...some miswritten horn parts with plain wrong notes...and nobody had picked up that they were incorrect. I ended up being the bad guy and pointing these things out which was very uncomfortable at times...couldn't help it though.

I think the entire band should learn the parts as they are on the record. There are always subtleties in a produced recording that give each song its unique character....especially if it is a simply structured song like the three chord one you mentioned. Occasional deviations are allowed as long as everyone stays in their lane. OTOH, unless a solo is iconic and you want to replicate it note-for-note, I think everyone should have freedom there. Of course, if as a band you decide to take a song in a different direction, let it loose but again...everyone needs to stay in their lane....especially the guitarists! While I'm only a notch above a hack, I've been lucky to play with some pretty good musicians along the way. I was often as impressed by what they didn't play as much as I was by what they did.

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#2843467 - 03/21/17 12:38 PM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: counterpoint]
theGman Offline
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Registered: 12/05/08
Posts: 1067
Loc: Parts Unknown, Virginia
The way I figure it, try to get the signature parts close. First, listen to the original band on You Tube doing different versions of the same song at least 3 or 5 times.'t

Then, it will sink in that they don't do better than 90% the same any time. And, remember that the cover recording was probably attenpted 10 to 20 times before they liked it, or possibly pieced together.....THEY couldn't even get it right.

So, after this, when you play it, you can smile, and be confident that you're doing just fine. Pretty much! heh heh

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#2843469 - 03/21/17 12:48 PM Re: Feeling compelled to memorize the exact keyboard lines. [Re: theGman]
16251 Offline
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Registered: 06/07/07
Posts: 2569
When you have to cover more than one part at same time then something has to give. I usually decided which was most important and then work other part in.
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