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Thread: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

  1. #26
    formerly digger b
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    I too do some mindless noodling. I only have a rare occasion to be around other musicians. Most of my practice time is spent with a CD player listening through headphones. I have a hard time connecting with what is outside of the headphones with what is playing inside them. Therefor, a boombox is better for me on the weekends when I am at home.
    Some of the links, here on the Cafe, have some great lessons. All free-just print them out.
    The other thing I have discovered is that taking a short nap before practice makes the practice time much more effective. It gives my brain a chance to flush.

  2. #27
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Dear M.D. Nollij,

    How about this experiment?...

    Start with a dose of "mindless noodling",all the while trusting your ear to make only pleasing and therefore (mostly) correct sounds.
    Organize those those sounds into some repetitive structure--a tune, collection of phrases, whatever..
    Record the same.
    Listen back to it. Ask yourself why it works, what you like about, where the trouble spots are.
    You may even surprise yourself and end up using actual music theory terms when codifying your creation..
    Now you have mindful noodling!

    The main point here is to trust your ear. Loads of musician play things without knowing the names of what they are or how they work or what principles support them. It's always good to know more, but if you're more powerfully drawn to the creative, non-mathematical, non-academic side of music, that's perfectly fine. Ultimately you'd develop your own terminology just to keep track of things, and most people pursue the time-saving method of using the existing systems. But given that it is music, it's the sound and it's effects that matter most.
    So Noodle On! But also add the challenge of asking yourself about the results--why do they sound good to you? Is there a relationship between certain fretboard markers and certain sounds and feelings? Do the chords used present moods or reactions? How do they move from one to another? Etc..
    And thank you for kicking off this interesting discussion. I've had several students who present this same situation. I usually tell them."We're going to try to learn the names for what you know already"..
    Someplace colder than Chicago? That must be one of the Poles or something...

  3. #28
    Mike Parks woodwizard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    I wouldn't call it "mindless" noodling but noodling around to find the key is what I do a lot of the time. Once found then I start noodling around for the melody. Nothing wrong with noodling unless it's a banjo doing it when you're trying to tune.
    I Pick, Therefore I Grin! ... "Good Music Any OLD-TIME"

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    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Stiernberg View Post

    The main point here is to trust your ear.
    +1000. Without the ear, all the theory (or noodling) in the world won't help you.

    A sage teacher at Berklee in the 70's gave me this Zen-like phrase, which has served me well in my quest:

    It all comes in through your ears.

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    Mike Parks woodwizard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by John McGann View Post
    +1000. Without the ear, all the theory (or noodling) in the world won't help you.

    A sage teacher at Berklee in the 70's gave me this Zen-like phrase, which has served me well in my quest:
    That's heavey John ... I had to hold my lighter (flame) up in the air on that one. Man ... we're all addicted
    I Pick, Therefore I Grin! ... "Good Music Any OLD-TIME"

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    Registered User groveland's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by John McGann View Post
    +1000. Without the ear, all the theory (or noodling) in the world won't help you.

    A sage teacher at Berklee in the 70's gave me this Zen-like phrase, which has served me well in my quest:
    Tell that to Beethoven.

  7. #32
    Mike Parks woodwizard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Yup! ... but that's just 1 in a million or 2 or 3 or 4 or more. How many really would be playing music if they could not hear?
    I Pick, Therefore I Grin! ... "Good Music Any OLD-TIME"

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  8. #33

    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Mindless noodling in this respect, makes me think of that old basketball coach, that told the kid to sleep with his basketball. It develops a sort of second nature with it's ever-presence. This can only go so far. One out of how many millions became Mikey Jordan? But that second-nature thing is a good thing. We don't think about talking before we do it? Sure, we probably should, but that's not the point. However, we do think before we attempt to convey something complicated or out of the norm. And again, we know practice makes things easier. Or practice makes more difficult thing easier. So if we don't know what's difficult, how can we push the envelope? Maybe we're already doing difficult things and not know it? So far, every tune i've learned somebody has said, "yeah i used to play that when i first started."


  9. #34
    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Mindless is the key word.

    As Don Stiernberg points out, some forms of noodling - explorative noodling, inquisitive noodling, thematic noodling etc. - are a positive thing.

    But "mindless"?

    Like watching so-called brain-dead "reality" shows while the hands mindlessly run up and down scales.....? Oh, the sweet temptation and allure of fast future finger diarrhea.... so techno-impressive. And, ....... so "musical".



    Quick, UPS this guy your old Hondo or Michael Kelly! He needs a more ascetic form of noodling!


  10. #35
    Confused... or?
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    man dough -

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Parrish View Post
    ... I also found " The Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory" ...
    YES!! After decades of playing every guitar chord (uhmm...) in any key, learning riffs to hundreds of songs, and lots of noodling, but assiduously avoiding scales beyond first-position C & G, I started playing mando & bluegrass and realized how much I DIDN'T know. TCIGTMT really brought it together for me.

    Being stuck in a recliner (right arm in sling) for several months seems not far different from being stuck in Antarctica for several months! A 1st-gen Cascio keyboard, $1 at yardsale and played left-handed only, let the music flow. WELL worth the effort, and far, Far, FAR less painful than I had expected.

    The time & effort invested in theory has been saved many times over, even in something so seemingly (but not really!) trivial as interpreting many of the posts here on the Cafe. I still keep asking "Why didn't I do this years ago?"

    Please listen to Nike, and Just Do It!

    - Ed

  11. #36

    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by groveland View Post
    Tell that to Beethoven.
    precisely the point ... imagine beethoven listening to some folk ditty or another and asking the "colorful rustic" who strummed, hummed, whistled or piped it if he could please have that "delightful aire" in notation ...

  12. #37
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Noodling is not mindless. Your brain is always learning something. In this case you are learning your instrument. Choose a key / chord progression to noodle in and voila you are learning to improvise. An understanding of where the notes are is what you'll gain and that is more valuable than being able to play some tunes by rote and not knowing what you're doing.

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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    If you don't have others around to play with, but you have access to a computer with a sound card, you might check out the Band In A Box software program, that provides nice accompaniment styles for you to work with. I find it much more versatile than the "play along" CDs, as (a) you can program in chord changes that YOU want to work on and (b) you can experiment with lots of different "styles." Details here:

    http://www.pgmusic.com/#mp1

    (NFI.)
    EdSherry

  14. #39
    Registered User Ernie Campbell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by man dough nollij View Post
    Like a lot of us Cafe dwellers (I gather), I spend all my playing time alone. I went the route of trying to build up a repertoir of songs by learning them one by one from books and DVDs.

    Lately, I find myself with a limited time to play (as most of us do), and I find I spend quite a bit of time in mindless noodling.

    I don't come from a musical background, and don't have a firm grounding in theory. Yeah, yeah, circle of fifths. Yeah. I've gotten deep enough into it to understand what a major, minor, flat, and sharp key is. I'm a long way from seeing a sheet of notation in a weird (Fdim7?) key and knowing what that would mean on the fretboard.

    I know there are a ton of folks out there who are light years above me in terms of theory. I may get there someday, but I'm still stuck in learning elementary fiddle tunes.

    I do spend a fair amount of time just noodling up and down unfamiliar scales. If I hit a "sour" note, I back off, using only my untrained musical ear for what is "sour".

    I imagine there are a lot of aspiring musicians like me who don't have a deep training in musical theory, but have an idea what sounds "right" to them. I can pick up a mandolin and do a little run that sounds "jazzy", but I have no idea what a jazzy sound is.

    I'd like to know more about this, and would really like to understand more about it, without a lot of droning music theory courses.

    I know a lot of us come from high school band classes, where we were taught to play song XYZ in B flat.

    That's not my story-- I'm willing to learn the theory, but I'm more interested in tone, happiness, and the sound of making music.

    Because of some lifestyle choices (e.g., moving to Antarctica), I've eliminated some normal means of advancing (i.e., lessons).

    Am I doomed?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCHfFGw3IsE

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    Registered User man dough nollij's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Stiernberg View Post
    Now you have mindful noodling!

    Wow, Don, John and Niles all posting thoughtful stuff to my noob question. I'm honored!

    This is exactly what I was looking for. I realize that what I'm doing isn't mindless noodling at all, it's IGNORANT noodling. I'm finding keys, making up riffs, inventing (discovering) chords, and just making progressions that sound good to me.

    I see that continuing to play, learn, and enjoy it are all very important. If I add a theoretical understanding of what I do, it becomes more repeatable and constructive.

    I haven't written any songs yet, but I imagine that that is how the creative process works: here's a little riff I made up. Here's a little chorus that sounds good with it. I see it's in B flat. Here are some other chords that would sound good with that. It's turning into a song! Right?

    Thanks guys for all the great posts.

    PS to Haleyjo: Groovy, baby!

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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gerard Dick View Post
    Noodling is not mindless. Your brain is always learning something. In this case you are learning your instrument. Choose a key / chord progression to noodle in and voila you are learning to improvise. An understanding of where the notes are is what you'll gain and that is more valuable than being able to play some tunes by rote and not knowing what you're doing.
    I agree. A while back Bill Graham wrote a piece called "Respect The Noodle" and I feel like saying something similar. The state of mindless noodling isn't all that easy to achieve. For instance, I can't make myself go there because, if I try, I'm mindFUL, the exact opposite of what I want.

    Where it usually happens for me is when I'm learing a new tune. I sometimes get it wrong, but what I'm playing is interesting to me. Somehow the new tune recedes and I find myself going off in an uncharted direction. I write a lot of my own tunes under those circumstances.

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    Registered User Doug Hoople's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by man dough nollij View Post
    Damn. I thought it would generate a page or two before I was a goner. Time to take up the kazoo, I supose...
    No, Lee! Not the kazoo!

    Not that the kazoo is any less noble than any other instrument, but won't your lips stick to it down there?!
    Doug Hoople
    Adult-onset Instrumentalist (or was that addled-onset?)

  18. #43
    Registered User Christian Flanagan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    One training technique I use is playing along with the CD that comes with the music book. I use two free software packages to extract the files from the CD and then slow down the tempo of the music to learn it. Foobar2000 lets you rip the music files from the CD. Audacity let to you open those files and them process them at a slower speed. Reducing the speed let you play along and perform cord accompaniment at a pace that more suits your abilities.

    I've only been playing for about a year. This is a technique that's worked well for me. Eventually, I need to get out and play well with others, but, if you can't, a computer can provide the accompaniment. There are books with CD's out there that include melody and back up versions of each or most of the songs in the book.
    _____________________________________________
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  19. #44

    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    If you'd really like to learn a little theory, and why something sounds jazzy, or good to your ear, etc., here's a website that I happened to find a while back. It is the easiest explanation I've ever seen about how to make chords, scales, kinds of rhythms, and the "theory" that goes into it all. It's not only the easiest explanation, but the most well-written, and easy to understand. Paul Slater, a folk musician, did a great job.

    Look off to the left and start with "rhythms" and work your way down the links. This website takes a coma-inducing subject and makes it easy. Spend about one hour reading those pages, and the mindless noodling will mean something to you...

    I think you'll discover that the noodling wasn't so "mindless" but that you just didn't know what to call it...which is all that "theory" is, anyway, just putting a name to the things you're already doing, and maybe giving some new ideas on how to make it better.

    http://www.banjolin.co.uk/

  20. #45
    Registered User man dough nollij's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Wow, cool site. Thanks Youda.

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    Registered User groveland's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by billkilpatrick View Post
    precisely the point ... imagine beethoven listening to some folk ditty or another and asking the "colorful rustic" who strummed, hummed, whistled or piped it if he could please have that "delightful aire" in notation ...
    Good point. It all comes in through the ears. Or the eyes.

    Or does it? There is a "mind's ear", if you will. So where does it come from then? And do you actually need to have experienced hearing to put that "mind's ear" to work in some way?

    Jerry Coker distinguishes between the "outer source" and the "inner source" for hearing music. He illustrates that the inner source (the brain) translates sound, real or imagined, to notes on a page or execution on an instrument. But where is the sound, really? (Improvising Jazz, chap 5, "Development of the Ear") Very Zenlike.

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    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by groveland View Post
    Good point. It all comes in through the ears. Or the eyes.

    Or does it? There is a "mind's ear", if you will. So where does it come from then? And do you actually need to have experienced hearing to put that "mind's ear" to work in some way?

    Jerry Coker distinguishes between the "outer source" and the "inner source" for hearing music. He illustrates that the inner source (the brain) translates sound, real or imagined, to notes on a page or execution on an instrument. But where is the sound, really? (Improvising Jazz, chap 5, "Development of the Ear") Very Zenlike.
    It is Zenlike!

    Theory is good at creating little labels for sounds, which we can then catalog in our memories. When we are very young, we get "red", "yellow" etc. and attach an experience to the word...good theory/ear training leads you to the same place with sounds. The sounds do get pretty complicated, but the 'primary colors' in Western music are something we all experience (unless we are home schooled without TV or radio or stereos). With those roots, it's easy enough to expand.

    Other cultures have music based on drones rather than chords, and very complex rhythmic relationships. This is not written music, and requires vast stores of memory; but for those who experience it, it is a cultural event, and not an isolated 'one hour a week' kind of thing- it's really a lifestyle; much like the idea of going to a country and being 'totally immersed' to learn to speak a language- the mind will absorb it more effectively as a 'lifestyle' rather than a 'hobby'.

    The Sound is stored in the mind, the mysterious source of stuff...without it, we don't have soul or emotion either IMHO.

    Isn't it cool that you can play your favorite recordings 'in your mind' once you've heard them a zillion times? Now, there's a hard drive that rarely crashes

  23. #48
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by billkilpatrick View Post
    precisely the point ... imagine beethoven listening to some folk ditty or another and asking the "colorful rustic" who strummed, hummed, whistled or piped it if he could please have that "delightful aire" in notation ...
    There is even a point beyond... In his last years, Beethoven was deaf (the ultimate horror for a musician), but like other composers, he was able to "hear" the music by reading the notation. Therefore, what could not come in through the ears, might have come in through the eyes to be converted by some organic midi player in the brain. At this stage, theory is no more a matter of conscious thinking - its artifacts and protocols are simple tools of survival.

    Let us add the ability to hear to our count of blessings we tend to take for granted too easily.

    Bertram
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  24. #49
    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    There is even a point beyond... In his last years, Beethoven was deaf (the ultimate horror for a musician), but like other composers, he was able to "hear" the music by reading the notation. Therefore, what could not come in through the ears, might have come in through the eyes to be converted by some organic midi player in the brain. At this stage, theory is no more a matter of conscious thinking - its artifacts and protocols are simple tools of survival.

    Let us add the ability to hear to our count of blessings we tend to take for granted too easily.

    Bertram
    Another point is that ol' Ludwig primed his inner ear with lots of years of hearing with his then-functioning outer ears.

  25. #50
    Registered User Doug Hoople's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mindless Noodling-- the Link With Real Understanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by John McGann View Post
    Another point is that ol' Ludwig primed his inner ear with lots of years of hearing with his then-functioning outer ears.
    Beethoven's inner ear was beyond mortal reckoning.

    I've long since forgotten the details, but early in his career, while his hearing was intact, he is said to have been struck by a symphony being played at a local orchestra concert. When he got home, he laid it down note by note in musical notation, entirely from memory.

    A symphonic movement or, possibly even, an entire symphony, in its entirety? Hours later, and likely having heard other music in the intervening interval? It's true that the typical symphonies of the time were simpler than what we know today, but still...

    Word has it that he missed very few notes once he got a chance to compare it to the original.

    Beethoven's hearing was already largely gone in 1802, when he wrote the Heiligenstadt Testament complaining bitterly about losing it, and he was completely deaf when he wrote his late masterpieces.

    So the 9th Symphony, for example, written in 1824, was, quite literally, a figment of his imagination!!!

    THAT's an inner ear!
    Doug Hoople
    Adult-onset Instrumentalist (or was that addled-onset?)

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