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Advancing at pro level w/out using jazz as the method?


cameldrone

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For many many years, since music school, I've studied and practiced Jazz methods as a way to advance my keyboardsmanship, even though I've never really craved it as a style. It has given me a great command of all keyboards, and harmony, and technique, and bettered my ears, but I never could call myself a jazz lover, nor fan, even though I'm pretty competent. I'm a working pro favoring other styles, progressive styles that I love and crave which also demand a superior command of my keyboards, which jazz practice has given me, but I am having to make a tough admission after all these years: that jazz just doesn't "do it" for me; never hit that sweet spot, never been much of a listener, never tugged at me emotionally, so even though I'm pretty advanced at it (able to gig Real Book tunes with other pros, for example). It's kind of like weightlifting is to sports -- something that I don't like and wouldn't engage in for its own sake, but need to do it and do it well to be better at the sport. Here's the thing: At this point, I just don't think I'm going to be able to push into the next very challenging level without that "love" component, which I never had, and after all this time never will, and which can't be forced.

So the question is if there are other methods of advancing at a pro level that don't rely on jazz, NOR classical (which I've done a lot of also). Sure I could put something together but I know there are other people in my boat and just wondering if they've found a path, a method, an approach, a style, which provides a mechanism to organize practice time so as to force oneself out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself continuously, work on technique/improv/ear/harmony, get better all the time, that DOESN'T involve studying jazz. I don't think that practicing pieces I do like is the answer because it doesn't stretch to new unknown places enough, doesn't present new things to take back to my styles and tunes. I have spoken to many others who echo this, so know that you're out there. Please I don't want this to be an argument about subjective issues like styles.

There may not be a good answer, but I need to check, and no place better than here.

 

thanks

 

Eric

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The older I get the more time I spend practicing in my head. I continuously work on original pieces, many of which will challenge my technique once I finally sit down to commit them to "paper."

Couple of weeks ago I messed around with an original piano rag and instead of playing/writing what my fingers could comfortably handle, I entered the notes using the step-sequencer. At this moment I can't play it, but it will give me something new to learn that hopefully I will love, as it's my own composition.

 

Just a thought.

 

K.

9 Moog things, 3 Roland things, 2 Hammond things and a computer with stuff on it

 

 

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As I see it you have two options:

 

a) continue studying jazz or classical music though they don't excite you because of their utility in improving your technique and harmonic understanding generally

 

b) find, listen to, and create music that excites you and devise exercises to overcome limitations in technique and harmonic understanding that prevent you from executing that music as you'd like

 

From your post it sounds like you don't want to play jazz or classical anymore. For most musicians study and practice is a means to an end; that end being to make music that excites you and, hopefully, your audience. Making music that excites you and making that music the best it can be is usually enough challenge for any musician, and a lifelong challenge at that. That suggests option b).

Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
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Hope this reads like advice and not me having a go.

 

Stop worrying and enjoy the technique/knowledge you've worked hard to acquire. Work on expanding your repertoire of well known stuff that covers enough ground so that everyone who hears you experiences the WOW factor - then bask in being a keyboard god.

 

When they swoon and pass out have them brought to your chamber. In twos or threes - it's wonderful to be a true romantic searching for the perfect partner - but keep in mind that the search will be much quicker if you audition them two or three at a time. Ask Russell Brand.

 

Good luck.

I'm the piano player "off of" Borrowed Books.
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Well, I gotta ask, is there any music out there that you'd like to play that seems challenging? I dunno, is fusion or prog rock up your alley? You say you are a working pro and like "progressive" styles so there must be something out there, maybe Dream Theater for example, that you would want to play. And since you have experience I imagine you can pick parts out by ear so maybe just learning keyboard-heavy tunes in the prog genre will yield you licks you can use in practice.

 

If not, and if genres requiring a high level of technical and theoretical proficiency don't grab you, I suspect that practicing those skills is going to seem like drudgery. I've always been a pragmatist and think that once you have the basics down (being able to run through Real Book tunes merely passably counts, if jazz is not your passion) you should practice what you're going to play. This is in a very broad, general sense ...

 

I mean, once in a while if you practice blowing through soloing over a cycle of ii-V-Is or periodically dust off Hanon and practice scales that has value, but what about learning the repertoire you intend to play? Or writing it?

 

The answer to your question is really in the answer to THIS question: What are your goals as a musician?

Original Latin Jazz

CD Baby

 

"I am not certain how original my contribution to music is as I am obviously an amateur." Patti Smith

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I've often wondered how musicians who aren't "jazz trained" attain a high level of proficiency. For me, studying jazz and the inherent logic of it was what made my whole career possible. Before that, I was really floundering around.

 

Darren

www.dazzjazz.com

PhD in Jazz Organ Improvisation.

BMus (Hons) Jazz Piano.

1961 A100.Leslie 45 & 122. MAG P-2 Organ. Kawai K300J. Yamaha CP4. Moog Matriarch. KIWI-8P.

 

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I appreciate the helpful thoughts, but I am looking for an approach that does not involve me choosing my own methods of concentration. Just like in studying with an excellent teacher, it's important for me to get the straight info on weak areas or blind spots. I've found that in the past, these areas were unknown to me until pointed out -- hence them being blind spots. "Practice to your weaknesses" as my music school prof used to say. If I knew they were weaknesses I would have worked on them, right? A good advanced method or practice guidebook would present a lot of areas, and in the past when going through books (eg Jazz Piano Book, etc) I'd invariably be surprised by having a problem with some area, which would, of course, be a weak spot. A good example of what I'm looking for is Novello's Contemporary Keyboard book, but I've been through that. It presents concepts used in jazz but also applicable to other areas (eg altered dominant / lydian dominant, closed voicings, etc.), versus jazz methods that have you working on things pretty specific to playing jazz and not to other styles (eg. approach note patterns, tritone subs for 2-5-1s, etc). So ideally what I'm looking for would be kind of a "session player" book, an advanced method book oriented at the player who wants high facility in a number of styles. Maybe it doesn't exist. Maybe I should write it, but then there's that blind spot problem. Keep any ideas coming please,

 

thank you

 

Eric

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I've often wondered how musicians who aren't "jazz trained" attain a high level of proficiency. For me, studying jazz and the inherent logic of it was what made my whole career possible. Before that, I was really floundering around.

 

Darren

What do you define as a high level of proficiency? What is being measured?
A ROMpler is just a polyphonic turntable.
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I appreciate the helpful thoughts, but I am looking for an approach that does not involve me choosing my own methods of concentration. Just like in studying with an excellent teacher, it's important for me to get the straight info on weak areas or blind spots. I've found that in the past, these areas were unknown to me until pointed out -- hence them being blind spots. "Practice to your weaknesses" as my music school prof used to say. If I knew they were weaknesses I would have worked on them, right? A good advanced method or practice guidebook would present a lot of areas, and in the past when going through books (eg Jazz Piano Book, etc) I'd invariably be surprised by having a problem with some area, which would, of course, be a weak spot. A good example of what I'm looking for is Novello's Contemporary Keyboard book, but I've been through that. It presents concepts used in jazz but also applicable to other areas (eg altered dominant / lydian dominant, closed voicings, etc.), versus jazz methods that have you working on things pretty specific to playing jazz and not to other styles (eg. approach note patterns, tritone subs for 2-5-1s, etc). So ideally what I'm looking for would be kind of a "session player" book, an advanced method book oriented at the player who wants high facility in a number of styles. Maybe it doesn't exist. Maybe I should write it, but then there's that blind spot problem. Keep any ideas coming please,

Based on this and other things you said in your first post, it's hard to say for sure. But when you say you never had the "love" for what you were playing, yet you know harmony, chords and can cut Real Book Songs, it sounds like you're saying you've been educated beyond your means - that you can play more than you actually enjoy.

 

Part of this has something to do with the way you're looking at it, for instance, I wouldn't consider 2/5/1's to be jazz - it's just understanding and applying the cycle of 5ths in music.

 

Since you say you can't identify your weaknesses or "blind spots", then we certainly can't either on a forum without hearing you. The only solutions are a teacher who can help you, concentrate on songs you like and focus on simplifying... get it down to the core of the music you actually enjoy. Find an approach you like and build from there. To find out what you can "love" in your playing, try playing from your strengths instead of "practicing to your weaknesses".

 

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So ideally what I'm looking for would be kind of a "session player" book, an advanced method book oriented at the player who wants high facility in a number of styles. Maybe it doesn't exist. Maybe I should write it, but then there's that blind spot problem.

 

You present some really interesting questions. I frankly have never heard this kind of tone from a professional musician before. You're talking about music and continued musical growth like it's as dry a matter as taking extra classes at a local college to get a CPA certification or something.

 

You have a strong facility with jazz and can play it at a high level, but you don't like it that much? It doesn't stir something inside you? How did you acquire this command of jazz in the first place? School? It sounds strange, but I do believe you. You can be educated to play jazz and never learn to love it. It must be so much harder to learn if you don't love it though.

 

Anyway, your issues with jazz aside, you talk about wanting to learn more advanced harmony and harmonic concepts. But not in classical and not in jazz. THEN you talk about wanting to master a plethora of styles. Pretty odd, but not impossible. Here's what I'd suggest:

 

Dive into the deep end with some different styles and live there for awhile.

 

Listen to country. Immerse yourself in country. Listen to the greats of the genre from the past and the present. Buy books on playing country. Go see live country. Learn the style inside and out. Know the players, learn the stories.

 

Then do it again with New Orleans Blues. Then do it again with Chicago style blues. Then do it again with Indian music. Then do it again with Cuban Son music. Then do it again with Brazilian music. Then do it again with American RnB, all that sexy shit from the 70s. Then do it again with Jewish, Klezmer and middle eastern music. Then do it again with prog rock. Then do it again with classic Rock. Then do it again with Gospel. Then do it again with Jamaican reggae and ska....

 

Get the picture? If you want to 'master' these styles, it takes an immersion. You have to chase one of them down for awhile and live in that space for awhile. But here's the thing. None of the systems of harmony in those styles is more 'complex' than Jazz or 20th century classical music. But they DO each have their own rules, tendencies, and lexicons. You talk about wanting to achieve a keener ear. Your ear will be a whole lot sharper after you've played thousands of songs ranging from Bob Marley to the Gap Band to Rubén González.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

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I gotta say that personally I'm a little confused as to what you're looking to do. Bobadohshe said it best in that music is really not so much a "general" subject when it comes to learning an instrument.

 

I suppose there are plenty of exercises and such you can practice that help to improve your technique that aren't specific to any genre (Hanon for example), but that in and of itself doesn't really get you anywhere. At some point, it's inevitable that you have to study how these concepts fit into creating real music, and apply your knowledge to actual musical situations. I think in order to progress on your instrument, you need to have an end goal, even if that end goal changes from time to time. Otherwise, you're just running in place.

 

Just find music that DOES move you, then dive into it. Break it down, transcribe it, play along with recordings, try to understand it, try to create your own music in that style, etc. You do want to play music right? That's how to do it.

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I've often wondered how musicians who aren't "jazz trained" attain a high level of proficiency. For me, studying jazz and the inherent logic of it was what made my whole career possible. Before that, I was really floundering around.

 

Darren

 

I know this is OT but I am by NO MEANS a pro musician but I do believe I play well and have a really good ear for harmonics. But I consider myself to be floundering a bit. I have all these sounds in my head that I can't translate to my fingers. Do you think Jazz training would help? I haven't taken a lesson since I was a kid and I barely remember anything from them.

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To the OP: Maybe you just need a cool teacher. I've been taking jazz piano lessons and up to now, have learned a ton of theory and harmony, that sort of thing. But now, my teacher has started me working on application, where we are looking at songs that I bring. These aren't jazz tunes, they're rock, blues, r&b, etc. We are talking about these tunes with the knowledge I've developed.

 

To Stee-V: Jazz training would help, but I think you're going to need to spend time connecting sounds you hear with notes on the keyboard. The sounds you hear can be in your head, but they can also be songs with which you're familiar. There's a thread from the past week or so about How Do You Learn Cover Tunes or something like that, check it out. It takes a lot of work but I hear it gets easier over time (I've just started. I hope to be able to tell others that for sure at some point. ;) ).

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Seems to me that if you are sufficiently advanced technically, you already have the tools.

 

Now you need to use them in service to music. Your OWN music. You don't want to pursue classical or jazz, and that's pretty much the twin pillars of demanding technical styles. There's no point in increasing your chops for its own sake if you are not going to use them to make something special.

 

How about this for a challenge - become the next Zawinul. He started in jazz and transcended it to make a whole new kind of music.

Moe

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I'm a working pro favoring other styles, progressive styles that I love and crave which also demand a superior command of my keyboards...

 

Go to Jordan Rudess' website and sign-up for his Online Conservatory for lessons.

If this isn't what your looking for then maybe study advanced pop methods. [Not the crappy commercial stuff]. I've learn a few pretty cool arrangements from sheet music. If you're a decent reader then you can learn a lot this way. I like arrangements/compositions from Dan Fox, Bill Irwin, Lee Evans, and William Gillock.

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Eric,

 

I appreciate the helpful thoughts, but I am looking for an approach that does not involve me choosing my own methods of concentration.

 

Well I think to some degree any approach is going to require some impetus from you. You can study with a teacher or find books on a subject, but I think you need to crystallize a direction of your own first. You've gotten some good advice and hopefully something here is resonating with you, but we are all just kind of shooting in the dark because we don't know your past or your goals.

 

Can you tell us what your concrete goals are? Are they to become a session musician? (I ask because you mention that specifically in your reply) If so then you need to concentrate on networking, having great sight-reading skills, and other things Novello talks about in his book. Actually, that book you mention lays a lot of basic groundwork for finding out what it takes careerwise for various professional directions in music. But I'm not sure that's the advice you want?

 

Just like in studying with an excellent teacher, it's important for me to get the straight info on weak areas or blind spots. I've found that in the past, these areas were unknown to me until pointed out -- hence them being blind spots. "Practice to your weaknesses" as my music school prof used to say. If I knew they were weaknesses I would have worked on them, right? A good advanced method or practice guidebook would present a lot of areas, and in the past when going through books (eg Jazz Piano Book, etc) I'd invariably be surprised by having a problem with some area, which would, of course, be a weak spot. A good example of what I'm looking for is Novello's Contemporary Keyboard book, but I've been through that.

 

If you ask me, Novello's book provides a pretty advanced level of study. If you've truly "been through" all of that, absorb it, and can apply it like a mofo, I'm not sure what else you'd want to learn from a book. At some point, your "weaknesses" only come out "on the job." They have NOTHING to do with book learning; they have to do with how adaptable you are in certain situations. There is such a thing as being prepared, but then there is being over-prepared. I'm not saying this is you, so please don't take offense if it doesn't apply (again, we really don't know too much about your playing abilities or experience)but I do know of people who can talk circles around me regarding theory (and I think I know a pretty good deal about that), but they can't play a single tune.

 

At this point, if you into studying the theoretical side of music for study's sake, I know there are many books out there ... they are more philosophical than practical and you can search for that on Amazon ... I'm sure there is enough there where you could read till your eyes fall out. But again, is that what you want ...

 

 

So ideally what I'm looking for would be kind of a "session player" book, an advanced method book oriented at the player who wants high facility in a number of styles. Maybe it doesn't exist. Maybe I should write it, but then there's that blind spot problem.

 

Well, I think Bobadoshe gave you a good general place to start with that ... to (attempt to) be capable in many styles you will have to find resources -- books, recordings, teachers specializing in an area -- dedicated to those styles. Also, if you really want to get deep into a style, you realize that one style, one genre, can keep you busy for a lifetime. So again, I wonder what your goals are. Are you searching for a genre that grabs at your soul like something you haven't found yet? I would think just glossing over a bunch of styles and never setting down "roots" and finding one's own voice can feel kinda empty ... In reading this, I can't help but think what you really want is a guarantee that you'll FEEL like you're ready for any situation you might come across, anywhere. As the drummer I work with says, "the map is not the terrain." You can be prepared to a certain extent, but books, even band rehearsal, will fall short of preparing for every circumstance. Sometimes you just have to get out there.

 

I hope some of this is helpful to you; I could be reading you and your situation all wrong, but believe me, I really am trying to help, and so are others. Please, tell us more about what you've done musically and what you want to do with it in the future ... if nothing we've said to date is hitting the mark, I can almost guarantee if you are more specific, you will like the responses you get a whole lot better.

Original Latin Jazz

CD Baby

 

"I am not certain how original my contribution to music is as I am obviously an amateur." Patti Smith

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Perhaps calling it a "high level of proficiency" was a poor choice of words on my part. Throughout my career I've come across quite a few musicians who really can play great music yet don't know a thing about jazz. They have no knowledge of chord/scale theory whatsoever. Of course, they generally can't play jazz, but some can fake it to a good degree. Often they play everything else though! These people amaze me! All the skills I have, I got the hard way - through endless repetitive, often boring practice!!

 

 

I've often wondered how musicians who aren't "jazz trained" attain a high level of proficiency. For me, studying jazz and the inherent logic of it was what made my whole career possible. Before that, I was really floundering around.

 

Darren

What do you define as a high level of proficiency? What is being measured?

www.dazzjazz.com

PhD in Jazz Organ Improvisation.

BMus (Hons) Jazz Piano.

1961 A100.Leslie 45 & 122. MAG P-2 Organ. Kawai K300J. Yamaha CP4. Moog Matriarch. KIWI-8P.

 

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In searching "posts by this user" the only other thread that has come up for the OP is this:

 

https://forums.musicplayer.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2050700/Rhythm_changes_key_or_chord#Post2050700

 

I really do wonder if maybe we are assuming you are more experienced than you are, Eric? I got the impression that you studied music years ago and that you've been playing jazz gigs for years ... if that's not the case and those of us who think that are misreading, maybe clarify. It will definitely help in our responses to you on this subject, I think.

Original Latin Jazz

CD Baby

 

"I am not certain how original my contribution to music is as I am obviously an amateur." Patti Smith

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I really do wonder if maybe we are assuming you are more experienced than you are, Eric? I got the impression that you studied music years ago and that you've been playing jazz gigs for years ... if that's not the case and those of us who think that are misreading, maybe clarify. It will definitely help in our responses to you on this subject, I think.

 

Hence my question, how old are you - with respect.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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The guy has to first figure out what he likes before I would spend any time commenting further.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." 

Harry teaches jazz piano online using Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, or Google Meet.

 

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It's all attitude. He needs to learn to like more things - like practicing and lessons. No offense meant but I was in a music store long time ago when a young mom and her son were returning a snare drum. The kid wanted a drum machine because the snare drum was too hard.
"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
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No offense meant but I was in a music store long time ago when a young mom and her son were returning a snare drum. The kid wanted a drum machine because the snare drum was too hard.

 

And therein lies much of the problem with so many things today with so many people!

 

No one wants to put the time in that is required to learn the craft! It's all about instant gratification.

 

This is the stuff that drives me crazy. Time to shut up . . . . :mad:

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One thing I noticed about the guitar vs piano. On the guitar you have plenty of options available to learn technique. There are the typical classical and jazz methods. But there are also a myriad of other styles available. With teachers available at most music stores. The metal head can learn modal harmony and fret board logic. In addition to sweep picking, fingerstyle, travis picking etc. Whatever your interested in you can be taught advanced techniques at that perspective. When I looked at lessons in the Williamsburg Va area, all I could find were classical and jazz teachers. I was hoping to find someone more in tune to my tastes, New Orleans Blues, classic (some say fossil) rock etc. I couldn't find anyone that taught any popular piano beyond the very basic. Maybe Richmond? But that's 40 miles away. I have decided to go back to taking lessons after the holidays. I most likely will end up finding someone along the jazz lines. I'm not a jazz hater, I just can't listen to bop for more than 30 seconds. The only jazz album I own is "kind of blue".

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OK, there may not be too many university courses in blues or rock or new age piano, but I am sure there are many instructional videos. Of course, that doesn't offer a degree or personal instruction.

Yes, on guitar there is an incredible amount of information, misinformation and disinformation available in every conceivable style. Let the buyer beware! (But a lot of it IS useful!)

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