That also reminds me of Phil Schapp. He used to run (probably still does) a radio program at Columbia University. Most astonishing encyclopedic knowledge of jazz!! Have a listen sometime. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Schaap
Edit: Added Wikipedia link.
Which is a shame because they sometimes make bad transcriptions...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFWCbGzxofU is a deep dive by Adam Neely into "Girl From Ipanema" covering how "The Real Book" neutered the blues countermelody because ... someone just didn't write it down in the 70s and everyone learns it from TRB now.
I was also lucky to have a piano teacher who would correct the wrong stuff in the real book for me.
Genius indeed. Or 10,00 hours. Or both.
I say misfortune because I assumed this was a binary thing: you either could do it or you couldn't, and I was in the latter category. Later in life, I found that it was a learnable skill (probably what did more than anything else for me in developing my ear was being part of the cathedral choir and doing a lot of sight singing in harmony) (another aside, having done a lot of church music over the years, it was interesting to see the level of musicianship of the cathedral choir, and I was in the larger amateur group rather than the smaller professional group—where in most church choirs, each section would have their part played at the piano and they'd sing it back, the cathedral choir would have all four parts played together at the piano and everyone would sing back in harmony. The professionals didn't bother with the piano part and just sight-sang everything, including some really tricky harmonies, like having the sopranos sing a high F against an E minor chord in the lower voices.) At my peak, I was able to work on writing music while walking without any instrument and come home and transcribe what I'd written including all the harmonizations. I've lost some of that skill from lack of practice in the years since and I had to use Capo to recover the chord progression of a piece I wrote where I couldn't remember one of the chords in the middle 8.
So bottom line, there are some people for whom this comes naturally but it is absolutely a learnable skill.
People assume that these people have different minds and that is how they have such incredible recall, but the truth is our memories are really strong when the recall is a spatial query and the object being recalled is encoded well. People mistake their short term memory for their actual memory and they often don't do the work of encoding and decoding their thinking to improve its compression properties. This leads to the impression that our memory capabilities are much worse then they are.
If you properly encode the memory into a spatial context you can have rather incredible feats of memory. It just takes work to do the proper encoding and decoding and the creation of spatial contexts in which to store the things you want to remember.
That happens often with things that seem magical. Edward Tufte had an amazing observation about magic that really sticks with me: magic is an art of misinformation wherein the objective is to hide the work that was done. Oftentimes magical things are things which take a lot of work, but that work is hidden.
and on the memory palace: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2395739
and on spaced repetitions
But eventually, I was hauling a ton of fake books to every gig. About 20 years ago, I was running late, and decided to leave my fake books behind. And I survived. I had memorized most of the tunes that were played regularly in my locale, and forced myself to learn the rest by ear, on the bandstand.
So I tell people that the two best things I've done for my jazz playing were: Getting a Real Book, and getting rid of my Real Book. Today, those tunes are hopelessly overplayed, and I prefer finding bands to play with, who are willing to venture off the beaten path, with less familiar tunes or especially original material.
I think that I had assumed, perhaps partly because of the existence of the book, that while memorizing pop or rock songs is relatively easy, permanently memorizing standards with a lot of changes was not a realistic thing, but now I know that its really more that the problem space is just larger for standards, and its just a matter of exploring that space for a while that you get familiar enough that you can listen and guess your way through tunes you're shaky on. Now, the book seems like more trouble than its worth on gigs because it takes a lot of my limited cycles to stare at it. But boy did it take a while to get to that point!
Also, even if you're a rhythm player, tunes are a lot easier to memorize if you learn melodies. And that helps in two ways. The first is just having a better grasp of the tune, and the second is that if you're unsure of the changes, you can improvise directly from the melody.
Granted, as a bass player I can get away with not knowing all of those 7ths, 9ths, etc. "I solemnly swear to play the root, the whole root, and nothing but the root, so help me Dusty Hill."
Which is, in fact, the point.
You can't "jam" over a tune that everybody doesn't know forwards, backwards, and sideways.
I do agree that it would be nice if musicians added something from the latter half of the 20th century to "standards".
I heard a saying the other day you might like...
bass players aren't paid to play quickly, they are paid to hear quickly.
Stanley Clarke probably disagrees :)
Seriously: I think it's a great quip.
I can play tunes by Jaco or Les Claypool, but I can't play that at a country, blues, or bluegrass gig. Or even most of the jazz gigs I've played, for that matter. :D
There are also some dated, now-seemingly-bizarre choices that were included. These quickly become in-jokes among folks boning up on classic tunes. "Should we do Speak No Evil, Ceora, or...General Mojo's Well-laid Plan?"
My favorite weirdness is the creative harmonisation of late 60s free jazz. The chords offered for "Orbits" are quite cool but very much the transcriber's imagination.
Yes, it's inadequate and flawed if it's the only resource offered. But it's no gatekeeper, it's a gate-opener. I prefer to see it as an invitation to dig deeper. Someone practicing "Billy's Bounce" might gaze in disbelief at "Some Skunk Funk". What's going on with the mixed meter in this Charles Mingus guy's tunes? And thus it facilitates our going out to discover more styles, more players, more music.
I find it curious though that General Mojo didn't make it in to the Hal Leonard "6th Edition". I find it hard to believe that they couldn't secure the rights; did they just deem it too obscure? For trying to recreate the old book, seems like an unfortunate loss. Those tunes gave the book part of its character.
For beginners I recommend starting with The Real Easy Book which has some simpler tunes, mostly blues-based.
...except for an archive of the classical tabs, selflessly maintained by one guy:
Don't tell anyone!
> Use a maximum of 80 characters a line so that the tab prints out ok
> An 9MB downloadable zip file is available of the whole site
The fact that I had an upwelling of joy reading those lines on a nice, plain webpage just goes to show how far we go to lock down and bloat up so many things these days. Thanks for linking! The scrolling versions of the tabs are neat as well.
> do NOT use the 'Tab' character for spacing
I had no idea the "tabs vs spaces" debate raged in other corners of the universe...
It's not perfect, because if he updates his site my mirror won't necessarily be updated, but hopefully it's better than nothing. I'm pinning that on two seperate computers so it should have some resiliency, but if someone else wants to pin it too that'll do a lot for keeping it up.
It’s sometimes hard to do this because oftentimes in electronic music the sound or technique can rely on a quirk of the specific synth or sample. Attack do a great job considering.
They also produce Building Blocks, which is all about music theory and composition and teaches some basic beats (and, more importantly, I think, how to think about beats so that it becomes easier to recreate ones you hear from scratch).
Building Blocks - https://www.audiblegenius.com/
Syntorial - https://www.syntorial.com/
However, I have been playing keys in a Pink Floyd cover band for the last two months, and that process of both learning the parts and, more interestingly, programming patches in my synths to mimic the stuff has been fun. I just programmed the patch for "Brain Damage" this afternoon, and I've been finding various walkthroughs and tutorials very helpful, even if the basic tones (mostly saws and squares with a ladder filter) are pretty easy.
I really like fakebooks, but Youtube has kind of obviated the need for the various textbooks that were popular in the 80s, at least for me.
Ableton have some online content like https://learningmusic.ableton.com/ which is laid out in chapter form and uses https://tonejs.github.io/ for browser synthesis / sequencing etc
Check some of the Ableton chapters a bit more closely though - https://learningmusic.ableton.com/make-basslines/good-life.h... is this not something like you're referring to? Has a grid with the midi notes in place arranged just like you'd see in a DAW. I think they have an exporter for the MIDI into ableton as well
But that doesn't convey the melody/harmony/rhythm, only the sound design.
and some more modern ones like: https://op-forums.com/t/pocket-operations-a-portable-book-of...
Neither of these are online though and would be well suited to it I agree.
A quick search also came up with: http://808.pixll.de/ which has drum patterns uploaded by users for popular songs
Of course, when I say "the free market", I'm talking about the one where good ideas can be shared and copied freely --- not the one populated by sheet music landlords, whose laws were flouted every step of the way for great public benefit.
Music is all about utilizing shared language, and I feel The Real Book was just a way to add some depth to the expected knowledge base in a certain scene. Kinda like software patterns.
I bought my copy twenty years ago and I’ve been using it ever since. (I play piano.)
> During a lecture in 1985, Erdős said, "You don't have to believe in God, but you should believe in The Book."
Not only did you get the charts, but you got their notes. And the notes of anyone before them from the book’s lineage.
Still have. Still use it.
I was, around that time, a Kinko's employee, and the company got really sticky about copyright in the next couple of years, especially after the regional franchises were bought out, clamping down on the official unofficial nod-nod-wink-wink say-no-more policy. A lot of it was driven by photographers upset at people getting their event photos scanned for which the photographer kept the rights, and students duplicating textbooks or handouts, but it bled into nearly everything and was becoming a huge PITA. My understanding is that it got even stricter after the FedEx purchase, though I wasn't there at that point.
I remember learning to play classics but also just enjoyed reading along with stuff I had no chance of learning myself.
Illegal sheet music, underground comics, the "Anarchist's Cookbook" and similar... long tradition.
The minutiae of building codes; plumbing and electrical specifically, are such a body of knowledge without a corresponding bible. There's the apprenticeship "how its done," which implies "around here, where we know what the inspectors like"; in many places the inspectors have never seen a copy of the codes they're supposed to be enforcing.
It does contain instructions on how to manufacture some smaller types of explosives and other goodies, so it's not completely useless. It was also initially released before the internet, and since the creation of the internet, lost a bit of it's usefulness of course.
> There are not, to my knowledge, a whole lot of practicing anarchists.
Maybe not where you live, but anarchism lives on across the world and you can find practicing anarchists inside most states around the world today, some groups bigger than others, CNT and FIJL being probably some of the bigger ones today.
I do know some music theory from elementary / high school.
You can find teachers who focus on jazz. Let them know your intentions. Make sure they force you to play melodies in addition to chords, and to read from standard notation in addition to tabulature.
Eventually you should look for a beginner jam session. In my locale, before the COVID, there were multiple jam sessions at different times and places, but one of them was deliberately organized as a learning session for beginners. It was hosted by some local jazz educators, and they may even have gotten some sort of grant for it.
A good thing about guitar or piano is that you can function in a rhythm section before you are fully up to speed as an improv soloist. The same is true of the bass.
A lot of this can be self-taught, but it really helps to have a mentor, and lessons can really be helpful. That's what I did when I initially learned in high school. Go on your own until you hit a roadblock or get stuck in a rut, then take a lesson.
Also, don't forget that jazz is a communal activity. After you achieve some base level of competence, you really need to start playing with other people, and preferably other people who are better than you are.
For me, lots of theory concepts "click" more easily on the piano. I think it's partially a visual thing -- on a keyboard things like intervals are visually apparent (how many keys are between these two notes), whereas it requires a bit more mental overhead to conceptualize the same things on a guitar fretboard.
I greatly prefer to discover and play around with new musical ideas on the keyboard first for this reason. Others' mileage may vary!
As far as resources go, I'm a fan of Mark Levin's "The Jazz Theory Book". It starts with basic theory then works through more advanced concepts.
maybe it makes no difference and I just feel this way because I've spent more time with guitars than pianos. when I sit down in front of a piano, I can't escape the feeling that it's biased towards c major.
The bass has truly portable patterns, which makes it super easy to learn.
Piano is built around octaves, so once you can play a scale in one, it works in any, unlike the guitar.
Best lessons ever for Music Notation and Music Theory 101. Just keep in mind this is for the "western common-practice period", not some kind of intrinsic property of music.
Then watch a lot of Adam Neely, learn on https://www.justinguitar.com/ if you play guitar, and just devote lots of hours to the many, many, many free resources on the internet (which now you will be able to search for, since you will start to know the unknown unknowns).
See you in a few years, the self-taught way is long but rewarding. Have fun!
EDIT: Also, remember learning both horizontally (theory) and vertically (play the damn tunes!) It's easy to fall into the unidimensional growth trap.
His music theory approach is useless. It's just a checklist of terms that fit into his particular grid that day. No one wrote any worthwhile pop or rock songs with theoretic emphasis, ever.
Unfortunately, though, he's been a little more clickbait-y of late. For example his "rant" videos, which are both very clickable and don't have copyright claims like most his videos. I expect to see more of these going forward now that he knows he can rant for 30 min, cut it down to 10 min, post it, and make $10k from ad views.
The "What Makes This Song Great?" series is wonderful. If for no other reason where else are you going to here isolated tracks from your favorite songs? But I somewhat suspect he was trolling his viewers with doing one on "Since You Been Gone" a few weeks ago. I enjoy the song and am happy to crank it up and dance with my kids, but the production / arrangement is typical Dr. Luke blandness. But of course I still watched the whole video, waiting for him to "break kayfabe". :)
He doesn't really understand electronic music in my opinion. I find these sweeping statements about how "x ruined y" to be extremely lazy. Especially when it comes to comments about computers and music from these traditionally rock-ist people
When you say "traditional music forms" what do you mean specifically? I'm trying to avoid going down a rabbit hole of references which answer the wrong question :D
My answer to any question would change day to day really, especially at the moment as I'm finding lots of new and interesting ways to think about and approach production. Last night I was watching this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VspVQiG6hj8 (most well known as the artist Rrose making pitch black techno) which presents such a simple idea for creating an interesting drone sound using resonance alone & without any actual audio input.
I think a lot of the early IDM people like Aphex Twin, Autechre etc in their music have really used technology to push music beyond its traditional forms. And you have people like Oval that go with this kind of idea of "the medium is the message" (https://archive.aec.at/media/assets/b3d9569953edbc479d2a7bf6...) marking CDs to create glitches etc and surfing through filestystems to create microsamples
I really love synthesis & IDM but I tend to gravitate more towards soundscape compositions that are made of samples that have been abstracted to varying degrees. For example here's a piece I made that loosely follows Sonata form but has very little harmony or rhythm. Made completely of samples from an outside field and my living room. https://soundcloud.com/anthony-nagid/the-reality-sculptor-st...
Thanks for the essay, I'll put that in my que! There's a book I really like on 'The Art of Sound Organization' that got me into these styles. https://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Art-Sound-Organization-...
The video where they sit down listening to various string gauges and nod at the obvious tone change comes to my mind. I'm 99% sure they would not see any difference in a blind test.
He also has plenty of videos about his past, his achievements, very opinionated tastes about what is good, etc. I find it quite annoying and over self centered.
However, electric guitarists are placebo addicts and if 4 nice men spent a 20 minute internet video agreeing on something one of the bearded guys from ZZ Top maybe once said, some guitarists will play along with a little bit more ease in their hearts.
Classical training is a different story. Musical theory is endlessly useful to know. But jazz has been stuck in a certain kind of sound for the last 40 years since those people who actually made it gave way to those who simply play it. And now there's just this idea of what jazz is and ought to be, rather than treating it as what is was originally; a complete break from the roots of the western classical tradition into a wholly new art form informed by the limitations of what they were leaving behind.
It's sort of a cargo cult situation, really. You have these incredible artifacts left behind that came about as a result of complex processes of intense effort and struggle, yet those who inherited them act as if by imitating the same thing, they will get the same results. It's completely missing the point.
Wait, what? A whole lot of the western harmonic tradition went right into jazz. The "standards" are Tin Pan Alley songs from the first half of the 20th century. A lot of the bebop harmony came straight out of Debussy and Ravel. Third Stream music was an explicit synthesis of classical music and jazz. Some of Coltrane's innovations came out of Nicolas Slonimsky's Thesaurus of Scales and Musical Patterns. The walking bass was in Baroque music (Bach). While you cannot neglect the African side of it (rhythm, the blues, improvisation) nor neglect that it was Black people who put together the pieces and created the music, saying that it was a "complete break from the roots of the western classical tradition" is farcical.
And it's a tradition, not a cargo cult. There are still people alive today who played with Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and so forth. I have played with some of them. They tell stories, give advice, and pass on things that you might not get otherwise. Before the advent of jazz programs in colleges, the music was passed on via an apprenticeship system, which is diminished but still extant.
Today, people approach jazz for different reasons, and of course at different levels of proficiency. Jazz is old enough to have a history and a canon, and the enjoyment of exploring and preserving that history is a good reason for some bands (hopefully not all of them) to exist. Given my stature in the local music scene (not a first-call player), a lot of my work is of that ilk. I approach it respectfully but not with utter obedience. As a bassist, the instrument that I play has undergone steady evolution, even post jazz era, so that what I play on a "traditional" gig is informed by the present as well as the past.
Different crowd (fewer suits, less whiskey) but same phenomenon: work deliberately created to be avant garde now repeated as canon.
Of course Jazz greats such as Miles Davis etc would regularly play popular show tunes and use these as foundations for radical reinterpretation (eg. John Coltrane playing "My Favourite Things", Miles Davis playing "If I were a Bell"). If these guys had no qualms doing their own riff on something someone else wrote like "some day my prince will come" I dunno why anyone else should feel they're doing anything wrong doing the same.
Before I had status and before I had a pager
You could find the Abstract listenin' to hip-hop
My pops used to say, it reminded him of Bebop
I said, "Well, Daddy, don't you know that things go in cycles?
Way that Bobby Brown is just amping like Michael"
-- Q-Tip, A Tribe Called Quest, Excursions
Learning songs written by other people is something every musician does. There's nothing wrong with playing covers and being able to play music that's familiar to your audience is essential for many working musicians.
That doesn't mean you have to play old standards when you could riff on newer music, but it also doesn't mean you can't. There's nothing wrong with reviving a tune written a long time ago and putting your own take on it.
Music is not necessarily more enjoyable just because it's brand new. It can be just as interesting if it's new to you, and there's plenty to explore.
Though I consider its versions as vanilla, it would be cool to see a real bebop version.
back when I was in elementary school, my big bro was learning jazz and taught me music (still do, but my progress is slow).
then he went to university. by the end of semester he came back home brought some chunky books printed on 70gsm paper. he give some to my cousins
the blog's hero image reminds me of that book. one of them is still in my house's storage.
Submitters: if HN's software edits a title badly, you can override that by clicking 'edit'. Just please don't restore clickbait.
It has a peach-colored cover, a chunky, 1970s-style logo, and a black plastic binding. It’s delightfully homemade-looking—like it was printed by a bunch of teenagers at a Kinkos. And inside is the sheet music for hundreds of common jazz tunes—also known as jazz “standards”—all meticulously notated by hand.