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Thread: Can you teach musicality?

  1. #26

    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    You can't teach anyone anything: As the zen saying goes, "There is no teaching; only learning."

    Not to get too out there, but we could include an additional aspect to the "steps" Carl outlined. In "The Original Art of Music" - an old textbook of mine - the author states: "Real music is not the product of personal psychological, emotive activity...(the player) must be the music. He (sic) must allow the music to play him." This alludes to a level, perhaps of ultimate artistic achievement, where these aforementioned rudiments and mechanisms of music, the usual routines and techniques of the player, are transcended to that state of selflessness and ultimate musicality.

    I like many of the things V. Wooten says in his presentations. He was raised in an environment of musical immersion. Generally, this the way to go - immersion - as there is much to be learned, even, and perhaps especially, without an instrument in hand.

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    Plays Well With Others Nate Lee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    A teacher can be a tremendous help but they cannot carry the student there and can only lead them.
    So true! As Michael says in the The Music Lesson, "I can't teach you anything, I can only SHOW you". By the way, I met Michael a while back! He said they're writing a second book. And to the OP, Michael plays the cello!
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    Plays Well With Others Nate Lee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    Quote Originally Posted by clicketyclack View Post

    To improve creativity: Iterate on a single idea in several different ways before settling on a final outcome.
    Kenny Werner teaches this to composers in his book "Effortless Mastery". It has been such a huge help to me as a composer, and often keeps me from getting in a rut. Kenny tells his students to wait as long as possible before putting the ideas together into a song. Totally paraphrasing here, btw.
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  5. #29
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    The Music Lesson by Victor Wooten is entirely based on the idea of learning musicality instead of how to play a musical instrument. In it the teacher Michael says that he cannot teach the protagonist anything. He can show him some stuff.
    I read that book and enjoyed it. However, two things to keep in mind are: first, it's an allegorical story -- you're about as likely to find Michael as you are to find Castaneda's Don Juan; second, the author was a professional musician when these encounters supposedly took place, and not some poor soul who was tone deaf or rhythmically challenged. Clearly, not everyone starts out from the same place and with the same abilities, whether they want to be nuclear physicists, mechanics, sprinters, or musicians. Someone who can't sing "Happy Birthday" at seven will never sing opera, though, with help, they may learn to sing "Happy Birthday."

    To the OP, I'd ask your teacher what s/he means by "musicality."
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    IMHO, "musicality" is one of those fifty cent words that a lot of people use to sound intellectual. I'm not saying it isn't a thing, just that I dislike those kinds of academic terms. If you ask an old blues man or a mountain fiddler about "musicality" you are going to get a blank stare or a request to get out of his face. A quote often attributed to Frank Zappa is, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." That quote comes to mind when I hear terms like "musicality."

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  9. #31
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    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    Musicality is simply taste as it applies to all aspects of music. It can be taught, but not to everyone.

  10. #32

    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    ... whether they want to be nuclear physicists, mechanics, sprinters, or musicians. Someone who can't sing "Happy Birthday" at seven will never sing opera, though, with help, they may learn to sing "Happy Birthday."...
    Lots of people couldn’t sing “Happy Birthday” at seven. What about Russian opera singers? Chinese, Indian...


    Quote Originally Posted by John Flynn View Post
    IMHO, "musicality" is one of those fifty cent words that a lot of people use to sound intellectual.
    I once knew a Salsa dance teacher who laughed (with me), saying, “I know you can dance really well, you’re just thinking too much!”
    -but that’s the student, not the teacher.

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  12. #33
    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    You can teach the techniques. You can point out where the techniques are used and who uses them. Dynamics, phrasing, playing the rests. Negative space. Harmony. Rhythm. These can all be taught.

    Putting them together? That has to be learned.

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    Quote Originally Posted by bradlaird View Post
    This is rich buttered popcorn. Keep going ya’ll. You are writing the Cliff Notes for my next podcast.
    I wouldn't want you to die of overeating, so I'll try to keep this short...

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    ...how culture and convention usually dictates our aesthetic experience and frame of representational reference.
    Got stuck on that, and asked myself: how am I biased by the music culture I grew up with (parents classical musicians, learning to play the violin with classic etudes and pieces etc)? The surprising answer is: not at all. Instead, I am totally biased by a music culture I never heard (ITM) until I was an adult and which gave me the feeling of coming home at last. 40 years later, I still can't really relate to any music that is not at least a bit like ITM (Händel and Vaughan Williams at the outer perimeter). So yes, my musicality is bound to a culture, but not a dictated one by any means.
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    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    When I was just out of school I went to work in an office where I had to do a lot of writing. I'd draft something up and my boss would get out his blue pen and cross out what looked like every other word. The result was better. I believe you can teach musicality.
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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    People learn, teachers facilitate learning. To teach is to show, and to facilitate the growth of another (others). A teacher cannot make another person musical, but a good teacher can help another become more musical.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    I remember taking a series of guitar lessons from Pat Donohue. His statement about learning techniques and how to make music: "I can show you the beginning of the path to the summit of Mt Everest, but you need to take the path and make the climb as far as you can."

    Still far from the summit in both guitar and mandolin, but trying to climb a little farther every day.

  18. #38

    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    Not to get too out there, but we could include an additional aspect to the "steps" Carl outlined. In "The Original Art of Music" - an old textbook of mine - the author states: "Real music is not the product of personal psychological, emotive activity...(the player) must be the music. He (sic) must allow the music to play him." This alludes to a level, perhaps of ultimate artistic achievement, where these aforementioned rudiments and mechanisms of music, the usual routines and techniques of the player, are transcended to that state of selflessness and ultimate musicality.
    Quote Originally Posted by Nate Lee View Post
    Kenny Werner teaches this to composers in his book "Effortless Mastery". It has been such a huge help to me as a composer, and often keeps me from getting in a rut. Kenny tells his students to wait as long as possible before putting the ideas together into a song. Totally paraphrasing here, btw.
    Well, I figured out where my art-to-music metaphor was falling apart! Of course creating visual art has more similarities to composition, since you're building 'from scratch'. We have dictionaries of visual communication and music theory (and foreign language learning, and structuring your novel...) but we don't quite have comprehensive bodies of writing on interpretation of others' works, since interpretation by nature must be taken case-by-case, in the appropriate context, until it becomes a matter of instinct and judgement.

    To continue the comics analogy, a penciller (composer) lays out a page, and an inker and/or colorist (musician) interprets it.

  19. #39

    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    Being a huge fan of Nate Lee (great guy, great teacher, great artist, and he'll be a great Dad) I read his recommended book, "The Practice of Practice" which addresses the issue under debate. The author, Jonathan Harnum, posits that there are two mindsets; 1) You either have talent or you don't or; 2) talent is the result of dedicated work, practice, and desire.

    If you are in the "Talent or Not" school I can see where the idea of not being able to teach musicality would make sense.

    However, Mr. Harnum comes down firmly on the side of talent as a result of working on your musicianship. If you have the attitude that you can learn it and you'll work at it, you'll learn it.

    I know I have experienced this in my life, perhaps you have too as you've developed skills across your work and play.

    I highly recommend "The Practice of Practice" and doing whatever Nate Lee suggests. Both will be worth your time.

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  21. #40

    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    Got stuck on that, and asked myself: how am I biased by the music culture I grew up with (parents classical musicians, learning to play the violin with classic etudes and pieces etc)? The surprising answer is: not at all. Instead, I am totally biased by a music culture I never heard (ITM) until I was an adult and which gave me the feeling of coming home at last. 40 years later, I still can't really relate to any music that is not at least a bit like ITM (Händel and Vaughan Williams at the outer perimeter). So yes, my musicality is bound to a culture, but not a dictated one by any means.
    If we broaden our purview, we might see that ITM is firmly rooted in a western tonality and aesthetic and subject to minimal alteration from its rather strict adherence to specific form and style. The comfort we find there, in its traditional dictates, is rather the antithesis of exploration that stretches the imagination.

  22. #41

    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    Quote Originally Posted by clicketyclack View Post
    Well, I figured out where my art-to-music metaphor was falling apart! Of course creating visual art has more similarities to composition, since you're building 'from scratch'. We have dictionaries of visual communication and music theory (and foreign language learning, and structuring your novel...) but we don't quite have comprehensive bodies of writing on interpretation of others' works, since interpretation by nature must be taken case-by-case, in the appropriate context, until it becomes a matter of instinct and judgement.

    To continue the comics analogy, a penciller (composer) lays out a page, and an inker and/or colorist (musician) interprets it.
    Not sure I understand this.

    Re the "building from scratch," I think we are beginning at the same point irrespective of medium. How does creating with music/sound provide any more of an advantage than other media? (Given the caveat that literature is "once removed" by virtue of its referent denotion)

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    Quote Originally Posted by 2Points View Post
    Being a huge fan of Nate Lee (great guy, great teacher, great artist, and he'll be a great Dad) I read his recommended book, "The Practice of Practice" which addresses the issue under debate. The author, Jonathan Harnum, posits that there are two mindsets; 1) You either have talent or you don't or; 2) talent is the result of dedicated work, practice, and desire.

    If you are in the "Talent or Not" school I can see where the idea of not being able to teach musicality would make sense.

    However, Mr. Harnum comes down firmly on the side of talent as a result of working on your musicianship. If you have the attitude that you can learn it and you'll work at it, you'll learn it.

    I know I have experienced this in my life, perhaps you have too as you've developed skills across your work and play.

    I highly recommend "The Practice of Practice" and doing whatever Nate Lee suggests. Both will be worth your time.
    Great book. I've listened to the audiobook version a dozen times. Jonathan Harnum is an excellent teacher, researcher and musician.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN
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  24. #43
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    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    I'll weigh in. I think "musicality" is largely talent and cannot be taught as such. I think it is like learning a language. There is a time in one's (early) life where one learns a language and the bases of that language (the different sounds used in composing words). During that time one can be truly multi-lingual by being exposed to more languages, say in a household where each parent speaks a different language. One can learn a second language later in life, but rare is the person who can "sound" like a native speaker, regardless of how long one works in the new language.

    Similarly with music, early exposure, coupled with "talent," can bring musicality. Some people just don't have the gift. It doesn't mean they can't play well or enjoy themselves with music. I play in a Saturday morning garage band, and some of the folks are awesome and we connect deeply. Others learn their parts but can't easily "vamp" or create different harmonies. You can learn the mandolin, guitar, or other instrument later in life and have a lot of fun doing it, but it's unlikely you'll become a master. Of course, you can have musicality and not practice enough and never be a master either...

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    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    damn .....never really appreciated what a knowledgeable group of thinkers frequent this little watering hole .some very enlightening comments .
    " musicality " . seems there are a lot of different interpretations of the term by a lot of folks more musically learned than myself .
    I think you can be supremely talented in terms of your ability to listen ,absorb, learn , execute , and perhaps even write music . but for me , musicality is a 'sixth sense ', if you will . its a whole 'nuther indefinable capacity of a musician to intuitively understand , to feel , to create , communicate and effectively express emotions and thoughts which are inherently 'right ' in that they can profoundly move us . I've come across far less musicality in my years than I have talent .

  26. #45

    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    Not sure I understand this.

    Re the "building from scratch," I think we are beginning at the same point irrespective of medium. How does creating with music/sound provide any more of an advantage than other media? (Given the caveat that literature is "once removed" by virtue of its referent denotion)
    Whoops! I just meant that music is a bit of a special case, considering that musicians can play pieces that they don't themselves compose. So in a way, "musicality" can be shared between a composer and a musician, and it's possible to think about those two kinds of musicality in different ways-- the composer constructs some kind of message using musical language, and the musician provides an interpretation and delivery of that message. With the visual arts, for example, that usually isn't the case-- for example, a painter has to both decide what is to be painted, and how to paint it (except in edge cases like the comic analogy I used before).

    So- not a particularly bulletproof argument, since mapping one kind of art perfectly onto another is always doomed to end in failure. But it's interesting to think about. I like the idea of musicality coming from some kind of agreement between the composer and musician. Or even the composer, the musician, and the listener! After all, a listener is doing musical interpretation of their own...

    I wish I remembered enough to dig up a source for this, but there's a theory in the literature world that it takes a reader and writer to co-create a text. As in, the reading itself is a creative act. If you were to apply that to music, the listener is also 'creating' musicality-- taking their own personal context and interpretation and applying it to the version of the tune they hear. Something that might be highly unmusical to me might be incredibly musical to someone else.

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  28. #46
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    I was in a local Irish trad band for a few years with a friend who is a very good violinist and teacher. Classically trained, he was the musical director of the Mantovani Orchestra in its last years before he went blind and had to revert to teaching. He had a strong opinion about this.

    He said only a tiny percentage of his young violin/fiddle students had a natural ability to objectively hear what their playing sounded like, not running it through a filter that makes it sound better than it actually is. It's why most of us are surprised, if not outright shocked, at hearing a recording of our playing. A very few people can hear themselves that way. In effect like a recording device. This is an immense help in forming the feedback loop of hands-ear-brain and back to hands that improves one's playing. My violin teacher friend said these are the students that inevitably do well, and go on to become outstanding players either professionally or as a hobby.

    He didn't discount the requirement of hard work, years of practice. But he thought that instinct was a requirement for the very best outcomes and couldn't be taught. You either have it or you don't.

    I've always been a believer in something like a bell curve of talent where most of us are in the fat middle, with a very few at either the genetic Amusia impairment side at one end, and the Mozarts at the other end. Teaching and study can't replace what's at the Mozart end of the curve.

    So I think this is another way of describing an aspect of innate musical talent. It's not always a popular opinion on music forums because we all want to feel that we each have an equal chance to "get there" with enough hard work, but life isn't always fair.

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  30. #47
    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    Yes. (well….I can, anyway).

    But the issue is also "are you willing to learn to think musically?" My teaching experience is that women students are less skeptical (or hostile even) to things that don't immediately fit in with their existing preconceptions.

    Training the hands and rewiring your thought processes are two different animals. Want to become really good? One needs to pursue both.

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  32. #48
    Registered User Glassweb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Streip View Post
    I think you can teach musicality, but I'm not sure it can be decoupled from technique. In other words, if you can't first play the notes, it doesn't matter how soulfully you pluck your strings or blow into your horn.

    Once you've got the notes down, you can worry about dynamics, creative tempo interpretations, improvisation if appropriate, and all the other things that separate "performing" from "practicing in public" as an old teacher used to say.

    And talent can't be decoupled from dedication and practice. I dare say I have more talent than dedication. I made leaps and bounds when my college saxophone practice was structured and guided. Without practice, I still have the same innate talent I did circa 2008, but my technique -- and my ability to perform musically -- has suffered.

    One last thought: Musicality comes from being an avid listener too. If all you ever listen to is baroque classical, you probably won't be able to play Charlie Parker licks with the prescribed musical language, and vice versa.
    I'm with Drew here... if you don't listen to a broad variety of music you'll never really "get" the idea of musicality. For me listening to music critically and fully-immersed is everything...

  33. #49

    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    @CC - ah, I see

    I was thinking of creation of original work; in the case of the musician - composing, improvising..

    The theory piece you mention is much like a theory (of art) one of my old professors was advocating. He called it a "reflexive" model involving image, referent, person/observor (forgive me Dick if I didnt remember that right) in a reciprocal triangular arrangement..

    *Oops, I meant "denotation" above, not "denotion" (I also meant Partch, not G Crumb earlier.. )
    Last edited by catmandu2; Jul-09-2020 at 8:42pm.

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  35. #50

    Default Re: Can you teach musicality?

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    If we broaden our purview, we might see that ITM is firmly rooted in a western tonality and aesthetic and subject to minimal alteration from its rather strict adherence to specific form and style. The comfort we find there, in its traditional dictates, is rather the antithesis of exploration that stretches the imagination.
    I do find comfort there (western tonality and aesthetic). Maybe not ITM so much, but with Bluegrass, old C&W and early R&R. I don't see why or how one needs to stretch beyond that realm in order to learn or possess 'musicality'.

    If we further "broaden our purview" we might see that many of us have tried that non-western tonality stuff and it just ain't our cup of tea.
    Speaking of which... what happened to your Youtube video of the jungle dudes humming and blowing bubbles into the water? That one was a hoot and now I can't find it.
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

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