Such are the mysteries of tonal music... like the old fable of the dragon chasing the pearl. We are these dragons.
Favorite Tune This Week:
For me - the drive for music education was a personal need. The guitar is my chosen instrument, but my primary motivation to develop a facility with it has always been fueled by a desire to develop a deeper understanding of the many mysteries of tonal harmony. I approached the instrument, by itself, as something I had to negotiate with to accomplish this. Though it was natural to imitate the sounds of the music I grew up with, I was mostly concerned with the 'brain candy' that accompanies a study of harmony and music theory -- Which scales "work" with which chords -- and when? --and-- Why do they work - when they do? You see, it's funny -- I was always hearing this one tone in the harmony (in various situations) that didn't sound right... just one tone. All the other tones of the Major Scale seemed to have meaning and context in modal situations. But, this one tone that I was being called to 'avoid' really bothered me because it didn't 'fit' into the perfect musical universe I was wishing to master. What bothered me further was that this 'problem' persisted well after I had already studied with some of the best teachers in the world and had developed a good facility with most of the 'prescribed' theoretical criteria. I'd spend hour after hour anal-yzing the harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic structures and situations surrounding this 'avoid tone' -and-- just as I would catch a glimpse of the beauty of it all...it was gone... Poof! ---!--- Such are the mysteries of tonal music -- like the old fable of the dragon chasing the pearl. We hear music in two keys at once - even as we focus our understanding in one key at a time.
Perhaps, I'm breaching a point of honesty here that borders along the line of stupidity... or maybe this is just a part of the stuff that good teachers are made of. What is most astonishing to me is that it was this single 'bothersome' tone my ears were telling me to avoid (and my refusal to avoid it) that has kept me earnest on the road to mastery in many areas of life. It drove me to study Chromatic Tonal Harmony at the Grove School of Music; Audio Engineering at Unity Gain Recording Institute; and another deep study of the engineering science of Electronics Technology at Lee High Tech Center. This one tone gave me desire for (and faith in) education.
Of course, there are many ways to get something done. I realize that my appetite for applying science to a study of music (and vice versa) is not for everyone. Fortunately; along the way, I did manage to learn to play guitar. Some years back, I began the process of 'negotiating' cover tunes. I watched as my playing and physical practice shifted into high gear. Suddenly, it became very clear what I needed to work on daily to be where I wanted to be. Each new tune would push me out of my comfort zone and offer its own lesson... its own teaching. For me, the practice of negotiating a balance between the 'free areas' and the 'not so free areas' of a given tune puts the 'ician' in the word 'musician.' It distinguishes 'practice' from 'playing,' while, provoking both to occur at the same time. It warms me up; teaches me to 'get in the groove' quicker; and awakens more focus on sound and (right hand) dynamics.
My philosophy of teaching (and learning) has evolved from these experiences. As the communication(s) between the hands, the ear, and the mind become(s) evermore sophisticated (with memory); we begin to rely on the ear alone... for guidance in all things -- listening for 'rudiments' that can be isolated, understood, practiced, and applied to virtually any song being created - or recreated - in any style.
P.S. Currently learning to play drums... something I've always wanted to do - loving every minute of it!