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Barking Spiders

Is having a thorough formal music training a barrier to being inventive?

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I don't think that there is any correlation between formal training and creativity.

The 'classical players can't improvise' line is used a lot, but there are also a lot of untrained musicians who can't improvise either. A good classical player might not be blowing improvised solos, but they will be interpreting and feeling a piece in their own way. Meanwhile, there are plenty of untrained musicians who play the same cover songs, with the same licks, at every gig for years, who play everything by rote and never improvise or create.

It's never an either/or thing. Someone who is creative will be the same whatever their level of training, it's just that some will approach it differently than others.

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2 hours ago, mcnach said:

...music education should give people tools to better use their creativity. 

Very important point. Tools.

As long as people mystify music, there will be contradictional comments on creativity and education. I call this mystification BS. Stop it. Now.

If you do not want to learn, or simply don't have time, that's fine. But you should say it out loud instead of giving outrageous and comical comments on education.

My formal musical education in my youth (I started at the age of 5 and quit the second school when I was 24; I sang in a few choirs from 10 to 31 years of age) has helped me far more than any single lick, video, or some gadget. Continuous learning, singing, transposing, transcribing, playing etc. are what I do to keep up.

To be honest, I am the big and ugly guy in the dark back row able to play simple meat and potatoes. I am anything but flashy. And I would not be able to play even basics in time without my teachers who were very patient with me.

Creativity is just one side of making music. One is improvising. One is playing from notes, and there are several others. I try to put my energy in  reproducing the stuff some skilled players and composers have created. I am happy with that. But again: without the tools I was given through education, I would be really bad. Now I am probably one in the middle class, but also proud to belong to this big and varied group of bassists.

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I think it entirely depends on the individual. I remember Adrian Legg once saying something like “it takes a strong personality to survive the academic”. Forgive me, that’s not the exact quote (I’d have to dig through several years of guitar mags to try and find it, which I can’t do at the moment), but it was something like that.

Speaking personally, I know that as much as studying art academically helped my art in some ways, it unquestionably hemmed me in in others. 

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1 hour ago, odysseus said:

...hang upside down off the end of it with your undies on your head if you so desire.  😁

Not really true; I've lost many a gig doing just that. :$

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9 hours ago, 4000 said:

Speaking personally, I know that as much as studying art academically helped my art in some ways, it unquestionably hemmed me in in others. 

Now that you remind me I think subconsciously I might've been thinking back to my childhood when I put up the OP. Up to the age of 13 I was prolific at drawing and painting and won competitions at school, but never had any lessons up to that point. Then I had art lessons and  after a dozen or so I stopped and since then have never done another drawing or lifted a paint brush, other than to apply  coats of emulsion. 

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10 hours ago, 4000 said:

I think it entirely depends on the individual. I remember Adrian Legg once saying something like “it takes a strong personality to survive the academic”.

This is also a valid point, but this is very rare. Can you stand beside Mr. Legg, or the late Mr. de Lucia and think yourself at similar level? There are people that can create or make new without nearly any formal training. Still most of us get advantage when learning formally from the pros.

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15 hours ago, ead said:

Interesting point.  I learned violin at school and went pretty much right through the grades (stopped after VII when I discovered rugby and lady peeps).  What I find most odd is that reading the treble clef is second nature my brain really struggles to read the bass clef.  I have no idea why but it's very annoying.

Same here, whenever I have to read music I need to transcribe the score from bass to treble clef.

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IIRC he was making it as a general point, not applying it to himself. 

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If the proposition is that musical training and knowledge restricts creative talent, that doesn't stack up. There are very few examples of musically uneducated creative types, who are successful, and everyone of those guys will have an association with one or more people with extensive musical knowledge, to fill in the gaps.

Unless you can afford to hire a full time arranger, work at understanding your instrument and the ways in which you can improve playing it and you'll produce far better music than any uneducated "creative" types you're likely to meet. You can't teach real creativity but you can be creative if you know how your instrument and music works.

Most musicians are nowhere near as "creative" as they like to believe and most know less about their instrument than they think.

 

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I think maybe it would be if the formal stuff is all you do, but if you want to spread your wings beyond that you'd have a much better base to work from. 

Years ago I went out with an excellent cellist, a really proficient reader, and very highly thought of among her peers. Fascinated, she showed me around the cello and tried to show me how to bow (roughly). The radio was on in the background and I started jamming along to the riff from Prodigy's Firestarter. She could never have done that, as simple a part as it was, just because it wasn't something that had ever occurred to do. Music came to her written, and that's how she consumed it, listening to music she liked was a separate thing in her mind, and creating something herself just wasn't on her radar. I reckon it's the case though, that had she chosen to turn her attention to that she'd have made me look like an idiot in no time.

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Playing an instrument and composing are two very different activities. Often associated, certainly, but separate. Being proficient at one has little bearing on t'other. I can compose a four-part fugue for brass, but would be incapable of getting much sound, if any at all, from a tube or trombone. A virtuoso brass player, may be unable to 'think' the trumpet part, or play timpani. Some knowledge of harmony, musical history, differing musical genres open the flood-gates for those intellectually interested, but don't help with finger positions on a double bass very much. The ideal is a combination of interests and talent, concomitant with a desire to work on all aspects, neglecting none.
Just my tuppence-worth. :|

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20 hours ago, Barking Spiders said:

Came across a YT thread on how much music theory did The Beatles have. I don't know the answer to this but I've known several fine classically trained players who struggled at improvising or making up their own tunes although they could reel off a violin/piano concerto etc at the drop of a hat. I will say  the most inventive stuff I've heard is by people who break the rules and possibly don't know a lot of theory. Any strongly worded  opinions on the matter?😉

what are 'the rules', and why the assumption that someone who knows musical theory can't also 'break' them?

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20 hours ago, Barking Spiders said:

Came across a YT thread on how much music theory did The Beatles have. I don't know the answer to this but I've known several fine classically trained players who struggled at improvising or making up their own tunes although they could reel off a violin/piano concerto etc at the drop of a hat. I will say  the most inventive stuff I've heard is by people who break the rules and possibly don't know a lot of theory. Any strongly worded  opinions on the matter?😉

I am wondering if you are referring to this excellent YouTube video, from David Bennett Piano.  
 

 It is well researched, featuring clips of the Beatles speaking about music theory, and a deep analysis of their understanding of timing, beats, bars,  time signatures and keys.

For me, I find music theory liberating.  It took me a couple of years of playing music on an two -manual organ for me to realise that a D major chord often appears with a G and C chord, especially when there is a single # sign on the stave.  I worked out that the notes are all the white ones, minus F, plus F sharp, and that the fifth note of the G scale is D, and that I could use that knowledge to play Root-fifth on the bass pedals, and play scalar runs on the keyboard.  So, I worked out the concept of the key of G (and other keys) all by myself, and it only took a few years.  

My youngest daughter polished off the key of G, over a couple of weeks, aged 8, in her violin lessons....

So, for me, theory is useful, as it gives me the tools to understand what I am playing, and how to add interest to my bass (and guitar) lines.  

 


        

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20 hours ago, chris_b said:

Didn't hurt Mozart.

...nor Jack Bruce. 😉

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18 hours ago, Drax said:

Ah man that's some bonkers conspiracy theory stuff right there. Very little in life where it's going to hurt you to know more - other than maybe how sausages are made. 

Honestly, I don't think there are enough conspiring parties in there for it to be a conspiracy theory ;).

How about paraniod or delusional instead?

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Ha fair enough. Meant nothing personal by it btw - just sad to hear anyone thinking like that :)

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Quick question: why are we judging musical creativity purely in terms of improvisational capability?

(Yes I know many people judge it in those terms - especially if they're coming from a rock/blues/jazz perspective - but if you read between the lines a wee bit you might see that this is not quite the question I'm asking... ;))

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19 hours ago, Triumph_Rock said:

As somebody that was classically trained in Trombone at school I have a keen interest on this.

I think you'll find that the 'bone is a jazz instrument. You're welcome. :D

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, chris_b said:

There are very few examples of musically uneducated creative types, who are successful

I'm not dissing music theory or lessons (I'm really not), but that is really not true for modern / popular music. Starting with probably every early Delta blues artist.

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22 minutes ago, Ricky 4000 said:

... Starting with probably every early Delta blues artist.

I'm not sure how many of those could really be called 'successful' above on a very local level, or even then. A few got recognition of sorts in their lifetime; not many, I'd say, in the Great Scheme Of Things. :|

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Posted (edited)

I'm also not sure we should conflate inventive and successful.

Edited by NickD

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1 hour ago, leftybassman392 said:

Quick question: why are we judging musical creativity purely in terms of improvisational capability?

Because the whole point of being a musician is mastering the creative ability to comply when punters come up to you at a gig and say 'Can you play the theme from Les Parapluies De Cherbourg? Not the original, I mean, the Metallica version. It's the wife's favourite and it's her birthday'.

As for reading music, that's just cheating. When I was tympanist with the CBSO we all got creative enough that Simon Rattle could suddenly jump up on his podium and shout 'Mozart 38, D Major, GO!' and we'd nail it every time.

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Posted (edited)
22 hours ago, ead said:

Interesting point.  I learned violin at school and went pretty much right through the grades (stopped after VII when I discovered rugby and lady peeps).  What I find most odd is that reading the treble clef is second nature my brain really struggles to read the bass clef.  I have no idea why but it's very annoying.

I'm exactly the same, having started on the violin. I have to think about it when reading the bass clef. I reckon it might be because the G string on the bass is in the same place on the stave as the E string on the fiddle, leading you to think, when looking at C in the bass clef (which would be A on the fiddle), that it's your open D string, which of course it ain't. Drives me up the wall sometimes.

Edited by Dan Dare
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4 minutes ago, skankdelvar said:

Because the whole point of being a musician is mastering the creative ability to comply when punters come up to you at a gig and say 'Can you play the theme from Les Parapluies De Cherbourg? Not the original, I mean, the Metallica version. It's the wife's favourite and it's her birthday'.

 

👍

I was asked to do that once. Had to turn the guy down though: the rest of the band were good with it but the tympanist let us down; dozy w*nker.

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38 minutes ago, Dad3353 said:

I'm not sure how many of those could really be called 'successful' above on a very local level, or even then. A few got recognition of sorts in their lifetime; not many, I'd say, in the Great Scheme Of Things. :|

I'm just saying that there are, and have been, many many great creators who are/were great without advanced knowledge of music theory. I was beginning with those Delta blues players, but you could start anywhere.

In my view, for every 'book smart' muso, there's a guy or gal saying 'I don't know what the chord is, I just put this finger there instead of there'.

One could take the view that advanced theory is more useful to a critic than a creator (although as I said, I'm not against learning!).

 

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