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  1. 16 Dec '09 15:49
    i have been watching a video of three women play together ( flute, violin and piano ...and not just some simple guitar strumming ). without the written music they are just going around and suggesting a tune by someone just striking up a note and the others pick up the tune ( hymns ) and they just all play away.

    how do musicians remember all those notes in their heads. the musical instruments are not that simple. no musical note pages in front of them.

    i know it is memory but is it a memory you think about ( i can think of the next note real fast ) or do they just start pulling on a memory and then stop rationally thinking about it and some interior unthinking memory take over to tell the muscles and nerves what to do next ?
  2. Standard member PBE6
    Bananarama
    16 Dec '09 16:43
    Originally posted by reinfeld
    i have been watching a video of three women play together ( flute, violin and piano ...and not just some simple guitar strumming ). without the written music they are just going around and suggesting a tune by someone just striking up a note and the others pick up the tune ( hymns ) and they just all play away.

    how do musicians remember all those notes ...[text shortened]... t and some interior unthinking memory take over to tell the muscles and nerves what to do next ?
    I assume these women are improvising. The process is similar in some ways to what you've described, but dissimilar in other ways. One of the hallmarks of a great improviser is that their lines seem to flow all the way through the tune. The very, very best make their improvisation sound almost like a perfectly crafted composition but imbued with a spark of creative energy, a sort of momentum that builds and builds creating excitement along the way. It's difficult to describe in text because the experience is so visceral, but you get the general idea. For best results, listen to the greats like Charlie Parker (one of if not the best improviser that has ever played IMHO, a true giant), Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans, Jaco Pastorius, Joe Zawinul, John Scofield, Pat Metheney, Joey DeFrancesco, Scott Henderson (guitar), Scott Kinsey, Wayne Krantz, Robben Ford, etc... (way too many greats to name, and obviously I'm a bit guitar-biased 🙂).

    Memory plays a big part in improvising, although it's not the type of memory where lines are recalled in their entirety per se. Better improvisers have practiced so much that they are able to envision, recall, manipulate, create and react to lines in large chunks which can then be pieced together to form longer musical phrases with the intent of matching the line to the situation. These "chunks" are sometimes referred to as licks, phrases, ideas and a host of other names, but they are all organizing principles that streamline the creative process in a way that makes musical sense. "Licks" (short musical phrases that feel "complete" by themselves) are probably recalled by rote, while "ideas" are more like rules that prune the possibilities. Melodies and chord changes are probably memorized as well, although parts of compositions are more easily remembered as formulas (such as ii-V-I's or scalewise melodies). An experienced improviser will have a greater intuition for what certain ideas will sound like and how they will work in the given situation, and is able to choose appropriate phrases exceptionally rapidly. On rare occasions, the improviser will make these decisions so fast and so appropriately that it feels like the song/instrument is playing itself and that the musician is merely a conduit for creative energy. This is what "being in the zone" feels like.

    Other organizing principles also come into play on various levels, like the sub-form level ideas like "intro", "verse", "chorus", "bridge", and "ending", and super-form level ideas like "1st time through", "2nd time through", and "final time through". These ideas help organize the improvisers thoughts to keep track of changes and melody ideas, and guide the overall contour of the song. The best improvisers are able to simultaneously consider all these ideas, set goals on the general contour of the song, rapidly employ their intuition to pick the best musical phrases available to them, and update their ideas in reaction to what they just heard, just felt, or are expecting to hear, all while remaining in key, in tune, in rhythm, and in the moment. Paradoxically, it's a lot easier and a lot harder than it sounds. 🙂 Of course, then there's free jazz... 😵

    One final analogy, improvisation is a lot like chess. Chessmasters train like crazy in order to develop chess "licks" (openings, variations, endgames), and "phrases" (positional considerations like N vs. B battles and pawn structure, and tactical opportunities like pins, forks and skewers), and then exert great creative energy at the board trying to fashion these tools into effective play, constantly calculating, pruning, envisioning, recalling and creating positions in their minds, finally playing the most appropriate moves for the situation, all under time pressure and psychological stress. Just like musical improvisation, chess play is a sublime mixture of "been there, done that" and "wow!". 🙂
  3. 17 Dec '09 04:29
    Originally posted by PBE6
    I assume these women are improvising. The process is similar in some ways to what you've described, but dissimilar in other ways. One of the hallmarks of a great improviser is that their lines seem to flow all the way through the tune. The very, very best make their improvisation sound almost like a perfectly crafted composition but imbued with a spark of cr ...[text shortened]... blime mixture of "been there, done that" and "wow!". 🙂
    What a wonderful explanation indeed! Kudos PBE6! You have a gift for explaining highly complex ideas. If you are not already a teacher perhaps you should look into it indeed! I would love to take classes from you. Of course you might find me a wee bit unruly!🙂🙂 I enjoyed your explanation and examples, analogies and visual devices!
  4. 17 Dec '09 06:49
    Originally posted by reinfeld
    i have been watching a video of three women play together ( flute, violin and piano ...and not just some simple guitar strumming ). without the written music they are just going around and suggesting a tune by someone just striking up a note and the others pick up the tune ( hymns ) and they just all play away.

    how do musicians remember all those notes ...[text shortened]... t and some interior unthinking memory take over to tell the muscles and nerves what to do next ?
    I think that there is a point where talent with notes and music is something you have or you don't.

    If I hear a hammer strike a surface, I can tell you what note it is. I can tune an instrument perfectly by ear. I can play a piece of music in my head...sure a lot of people can do that but I can add or eliminate instruments in my head as well.

    I can hear something once or twice and I've got it and can play it.

    Now note (pun intended) - if I'm sick, I struggle with that. The musical part of my brain doesn't work for squat if I have a cold or the flu. So perhaps some people are just wired differently in the brain from others - dunno.
  5. Standard member PBE6
    Bananarama
    17 Dec '09 21:49
    Originally posted by scacchipazzo
    What a wonderful explanation indeed! Kudos PBE6! You have a gift for explaining highly complex ideas. If you are not already a teacher perhaps you should look into it indeed! I would love to take classes from you. Of course you might find me a wee bit unruly!🙂🙂 I enjoyed your explanation and examples, analogies and visual devices!
    Thanks scacchipazzo, I try to help when I can. 🙂

    BTW, which guitar/amp combo did you end up getting?
  6. 17 Dec '09 22:54
    Originally posted by PBE6
    Thanks scacchipazzo, I try to help when I can. 🙂

    BTW, which guitar/amp combo did you end up getting?
    I ended up getting the Fender. It offered generally the better package and a guitar stand. I know I got the right one because he tried to borrow money from his sister to buy the basic Strat guitar sans the amp and other stuff. I know he will be surprised although I know he went through my web history in an attempt to see if I ordered the guitar on the web. I was clever enough to erase the history. His sister ratted him out!
  7. Subscriber AttilaTheHorn
    Erro Ergo Sum
    18 Dec '09 00:09
    >Memorization comes from practice, like anything else. After years of doing it, it becomes easier. I've played all the Mozart horn concertos in public from memory, as well as the Strauss and Hindemith concertos. The Hindemith was the hardest to memorize and it took me a year to do so. To ensure I've got it memorized, I sit down and write it all out by hand from memory, including not just the notes and the rests, but also the dynamic markings, tempos, and other instructions. Once I can do that, I feel I'm ready to put it before the public.
    >When memorizing, it's not the notes I memorize, but the harmony and the patterns. I just plug in all the hours I've put in on scales, arpeggios, and other technique, but I don't feel I really know it until I can forget all that and just concentrate on making music. I also want to know what the rest of the orchesttra is doing as well, because my part does not exist in isolation and I need to know how everything fits together.
    >All important horn passages in the orchestral repertoire are memorized too, just to be certain I really know it, even though the music is in front of me.
  8. 18 Dec '09 02:58
    the point of my question in brief is about the method of re-memory once something is memorized. does the musician actually "think" about the next sound or finger movement, etc. or does the memory just flow in a sort of subconscious way without having to actually "remember" the next thing to do ? is it like tossing a basketball without having to think about exactly how you are going to make the shot or do you think in nano-seconds about what you are doing and what you will do next in a rational way ?
  9. Standard member PBE6
    Bananarama
    18 Dec '09 18:35
    Originally posted by scacchipazzo
    I ended up getting the Fender. It offered generally the better package and a guitar stand. I know I got the right one because he tried to borrow money from his sister to buy the basic Strat guitar sans the amp and other stuff. I know he will be surprised although I know he went through my web history in an attempt to see if I ordered the guitar on the web. I was clever enough to erase the history. His sister ratted him out!
    Nice! I'm sure he'll love it. I remember getting my first electric guitar at Christmas when I was about 15, it didn't leave my hands for a week straight.
  10. Standard member PBE6
    Bananarama
    18 Dec '09 18:59
    Originally posted by reinfeld
    the point of my question in brief is about the method of re-memory once something is memorized. does the musician actually "think" about the next sound or finger movement, etc. or does the memory just flow in a sort of subconscious way without having to actually "remember" the next thing to do ? is it like tossing a basketball without having to think abou ...[text shortened]... think in nano-seconds about what you are doing and what you will do next in a rational way ?
    As others have mentioned above, practice makes perfect. At first, a musician will have to think about the physical process in order to get the sound to happen. After some practice, the musician can simply form the sound in their head (or more generally, imagine the experience of playing whatever needs to be played), which then cues the physical process. Eventually, the lag between these two processes becomes so small that the order blurs and the events are experienced simultaneously. Even at this stage though (or maybe especially at this stage), the imagination is generally considered to lead the body. Efficient sight reading, polished performance of a tune from memory, and improvising well all feel like this.

    In a more direct answer to your question, playing music well is indeed like tossing a basketball - most (if not all) of the physical bits will flow for you once you've set your goal.
  11. 18 Dec '09 19:05
    Originally posted by PBE6
    Nice! I'm sure he'll love it. I remember getting my first electric guitar at Christmas when I was about 15, it didn't leave my hands for a week straight.
    Talking about improvisation we visited the BBKing Blues Club in Memphis. What a delightful experience. The band wsa awesome, first rate, improvised quite effectively and had a horn section to boot! The lead guitarist was amazing, played an old beat up Strat from which he could coax amazing sounds out of. The next day we toured the Gibson factory. Also an awesome experience! Although I mostly listen to classical I also enjoy the blues, Chicago and Memphis style, old country, blue grass. My boy is into Pink Floyd and greatly admires David Gilmour and Roger Waters. I told him if he ever got a guitar he had to learn music the proper way, learn to read and write music and learn more about the classical guitar greats like Mauro Guiliani, Sor, Tarrega, and all the other Spaniards plus Villalobos, the great Brasilero!
  12. Standard member PBE6
    Bananarama
    18 Dec '09 19:52
    Originally posted by scacchipazzo
    Talking about improvisation we visited the BBKing Blues Club in Memphis. What a delightful experience. The band wsa awesome, first rate, improvised quite effectively and had a horn section to boot! The lead guitarist was amazing, played an old beat up Strat from which he could coax amazing sounds out of. The next day we toured the Gibson factory. Also a ...[text shortened]... Mauro Guiliani, Sor, Tarrega, and all the other Spaniards plus Villalobos, the great Brasilero!
    Sounds like you had a great time in Memphis! I'd love to go someday, I really enjoy getting blown away by live music.

    (BTW, for guitar instruction, I highly recommend "A Modern Method For Guitar" Vol. 1, 2 and 3 by William Leavitt (Berklee Press). These books are absolute classics, with nary a whiff of TAB to be found anywhere.)
  13. 18 Dec '09 21:04
    Originally posted by PBE6
    Sounds like you had a great time in Memphis! I'd love to go someday, I really enjoy getting blown away by live music.

    (BTW, for guitar instruction, I highly recommend "A Modern Method For Guitar" Vol. 1, 2 and 3 by William Leavitt (Berklee Press). These books are absolute classics, with nary a whiff of TAB to be found anywhere.)
    Thanks for the book rec. I really hope this is not a passing fancy. He tends to learn quickly and has a good ear. He can distinguish in reocrdings whether a Les Paul or Strat or other guitar is used.

    What do you do for a living? You seem to know a lot about music. Attlia the horn, who piped in is a professional horn player. Very astute and a delightfully cultured man. We had a lengthy back and forth on classical music in his post on Wagner.

    You would enjoy Memphis and Nashville immensely for great live music. I love live music whatever the genre except rap. One time I was blown away by a young violinist playing the Beethoven Concerto at only 12! Never skipped a beat, missed no notes, flubbed no difficult passages and had aplomb, beauty and the stage presence of a pro!
  14. Subscriber huckleberryhound
    Devout Agnostic.
    19 Dec '09 07:29
    Originally posted by reinfeld
    the point of my question in brief is about the method of re-memory once something is memorized. does the musician actually "think" about the next sound or finger movement, etc. or does the memory just flow in a sort of subconscious way without having to actually "remember" the next thing to do ? is it like tossing a basketball without having to think abou ...[text shortened]... think in nano-seconds about what you are doing and what you will do next in a rational way ?
    Think about it more like a basketball player making his 10,000th shot. He is more likely to make it look easier than if you saw the first shot he ever made.
  15. Standard member karoly aczel
    the Devil himself
    20 Dec '09 02:19
    Originally posted by reinfeld
    i have been watching a video of three women play together ( flute, violin and piano ...and not just some simple guitar strumming ). without the written music they are just going around and suggesting a tune by someone just striking up a note and the others pick up the tune ( hymns ) and they just all play away.

    how do musicians remember all those notes ...[text shortened]... t and some interior unthinking memory take over to tell the muscles and nerves what to do next ?
    muscle memory