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Ever known someone who played trumpet strictly by ear?


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Bwat
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2019 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

tomba51 wrote:
lipshurt wrote:
stevie wonder
ray charles
george shearing
endless


I don't know about Stevie Wonder, but Ray Charles and George Shearing both knew how to real Braille music.


I didn’t even know they played trumpet!
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HERMOKIWI
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2019 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mdarnton wrote:
Just showing one person who was good without reading music decisively answers the question whether reading is necessary. Why are people still looking for cherries to pick here?


"Necessary" is an interesting word. Reading isn't "necessary" for a player who only improvises and can play the heads and bridges instinctively by ear.

I'm an improvisational jazz player so virtually everything I do doesn't involve reading music even though I'm fine at reading music.

My point is that I don't use the skill of reading music when I do the things I do and, in fact, I don't need the skill of reading music to do the things I do. If I listen to the tune enough I can pick up the horn and play it and improvise through the changes and while I'm doing that I'm not even thinking about the names of notes or the names of chords or any sort of theory. I'm thinking only about pitches, relative pitches, rhythms, styling, musicality and texture.

It would be extremely unusual for any trumpet player we've heard of to not be able to read music at least to some extent. So, realistically, virtually all these players had reading chops to some extent. However, that doesn't "necessarily" mean the player needs or uses that skill to do the things they do. Nor does it "necessarily" mean that they needed or used that skill to develop the skill to do the things they do.

Those who take the position that a player who can't read music is deficient in some respect have a valid point. It would be hard to make a living as a trumpet player who can't read music. However, the deficiency is not "necessarily" in a skill that is absolutely "necessary" for the player to perform well on trumpet. It depends on what the player performs.

This is not picking cherries. This is recognizing the reality that being able to play by reading and being able to play instinctively by ear are two separate and different skills which are not absolutely required simultaneously in a trumpet player in order for the player to perform music well. Again, it depends on what the player performs.

Just listen to the famous Clifford Brown solo on Cherokee. He just picked up his horn and played it. There were no reading chops involved in the actual performance. The ability to read was certainly a factor in his development but when the microphone got turned on it was all improvised and played instinctively by ear. All the reading skill in the world isn't enough by itself to produce an improvised solo like that and, in fact, reading skill is not absolutely "necessary" for such a result.

Sing "Happy Birthday" to yourself. What are the names of the notes you just sung? Do you really know the answer? Doesn't it depend on the note you started with? Might you not start on a different note than another player? Were you really singing named notes (you can't name) or would it be more accurate to say that you were singing pitches and relative pitches by ear? Would your rendition have been any better if you had established the first note on a piano? Doubtful. So, since that's the case, how would you have done better knowing the notes you were singing by name and reading them off a piece of paper? Reading chops weren't necessary at all in order for you to sing "Happy Birthday" successfully. You improvised it and got all the pitches and relative pitches right and never even looked at sheet music.

Now, try that on your horn and repeat the next chorus one half step above the prior chorus until you've played it in every key. Next, try it on a simple jazz tune like "They'll Never Be Another You." No fair looking at sheet music. How did it go? You probably missed a lot of notes. So, how did your reading chops help you?

My point is simply this: Reading is one skill. Playing instinctively by ear (what you essentially did when you sang "Happy Birthday") is a different skill. You don't absolutely have to have one of the skills to be amazing at the other skill. There are many trumpet players that have both skills. Some became great and highly regarded using just one of the two skills. In most music the money skill is skill in reading. In jazz improvisation the money skill is being able to play instinctively by ear. You know Miles, Chet, Clifford, Clark, Dizzy, Lee, Kenny, Blue, Roy, Terrence, etc., etc. because of their ability to play instinctively by ear, not because of their reading chops.

So, there may not be very many (or any) highly regarded trumpet players who knew only how to play by ear, but there are a lot of players who got to be highly regarded because they used their skill in playing by ear instead of their reading skill in doing what made them highly regarded.
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Bwat
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2019 10:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

HERMOKIWI wrote:
mdarnton wrote:
Just showing one person who was good without reading music decisively answers the question whether reading is necessary. Why are people still looking for cherries to pick here?


"Necessary" is an interesting word. Reading isn't "necessary" for a player who only improvises ...


Everything you wrote was pretty much subsumed by mdarntons two liner. Reading isn’t necessary for any player. For those who weren’t taught it:

Let’s assume the conditional if X then Y. Here Y is a necessary condition for X, and X is a sufficient condition for Y. The case where X is true and Y is false cannot occur. A counterexample is where X is true and Y is false. Such a counterexample shows the assumption to be false.

Mdarnton rightly points out we have at least one counterexample. Everything else said on this specific matter is a bit redundant.

If this post comes across as condescending then I’m sorry, it’s not supposed to but I don’t know how to point this out in any other way.
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TrumpetMD
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2019 5:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

HERMOKIWI wrote:
"Necessary" is an interesting word. Reading isn't "necessary" for a player who only improvises and can play the heads and bridges instinctively by ear.

I'm an improvisational jazz player so virtually everything I do doesn't involve reading music even though I'm fine at reading music.

As HERMOKIWI points out, he doesn't need to read music in certain situations, such as when improvising. But he likely understands what he is playing. In other words, you can play by ear, but you still need to know the meaning of what you're playing.

There's a difference between "reading" music and "understanding" music theory. Some of us might assume that a person who can't read music also doesn't understand music theory. (Maybe I was making this assumption, too.) But this is not always true. For example, that guitar player I noted in my original reply can't read music, but he understands a certain amount of music theory.

Mike
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Brad361
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2019 6:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TrumpetMD wrote:
HERMOKIWI wrote:
"Necessary" is an interesting word. Reading isn't "necessary" for a player who only improvises and can play the heads and bridges instinctively by ear.

I'm an improvisational jazz player so virtually everything I do doesn't involve reading music even though I'm fine at reading music.

As HERMOKIWI points out, he doesn't need to read music in certain situations, such as when improvising. But he likely understands what he is playing. In other words, you can play by ear, but you still need to know the meaning of what you're playing.

There's a difference between "reading" music and "understanding" music theory. Some of us might assume that a person who can't read music also doesn't understand music theory. (Maybe I was making this assumption, too.) But this is not always true. For example, that guitar player I noted in my original reply can't read music, but he understands a certain amount of music theory.

Mike


I’m with Mike on this one. I play every weekend with a band in which only a handful of us are proficient readers, but most of the rest of the people do have a basic understanding of theory. Only two of us use charts on gigs (I use my iPad, but mostly because I’m the “section leader”, so I have about 15 charts up there of mostly the newer material; it’s one thing to screw up, but taking three other guys along on the mistake is obviously not preferable. Plus, the drummer and I sort of guide the rest of the band on verses/bridges/tempo changes, etc. For me, a chart is a “security blanket” in this case.).

And I also agree with Hermokiwi here:

HERMOKIWI wrote:
“My point is simply this: Reading is one skill. Playing instinctively by ear (what you essentially did when you sang "Happy Birthday") is a different skill. You don't absolutely have to have one of the skills to be amazing at the other skill. There are many trumpet players that have both skills. Some became great and highly regarded using just one of the two skills. In most music the money skill is skill in reading. In jazz improvisation the money skill is being able to play instinctively by ear. You know Miles, Chet, Clifford, Clark, Dizzy, Lee, Kenny, Blue, Roy, Terrence, etc., etc. because of their ability to play instinctively by ear, not because of their reading chops.”

I would bet a majority of weekend commercial players (pop, rock, r&b, jazz, funk) don’t use charts, but I think the better players at least understand basic music theory, even if some of them are far from proficient at reading.

Maybe the OP’s original question has been somewhat misunderstood. “Playing by ear” is not necessarily the same thing as being “self taught.”

Brad
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HERMOKIWI
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2019 11:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brad361 wrote:
TrumpetMD wrote:
HERMOKIWI wrote:
"Necessary" is an interesting word. Reading isn't "necessary" for a player who only improvises and can play the heads and bridges instinctively by ear.

I'm an improvisational jazz player so virtually everything I do doesn't involve reading music even though I'm fine at reading music.

As HERMOKIWI points out, he doesn't need to read music in certain situations, such as when improvising. But he likely understands what he is playing. In other words, you can play by ear, but you still need to know the meaning of what you're playing.

There's a difference between "reading" music and "understanding" music theory. Some of us might assume that a person who can't read music also doesn't understand music theory. (Maybe I was making this assumption, too.) But this is not always true. For example, that guitar player I noted in my original reply can't read music, but he understands a certain amount of music theory.

Mike


I’m with Mike on this one. I play every weekend with a band in which only a handful of us are proficient readers, but most of the rest of the people do have a basic understanding of theory. Only two of us use charts on gigs (I use my iPad, but mostly because I’m the “section leader”, so I have about 15 charts up there of mostly the newer material; it’s one thing to screw up, but taking three other guys along on the mistake is obviously not preferable. Plus, the drummer and I sort of guide the rest of the band on verses/bridges/tempo changes, etc. For me, a chart is a “security blanket” in this case.).

And I also agree with Hermokiwi here:

HERMOKIWI wrote:
“My point is simply this: Reading is one skill. Playing instinctively by ear (what you essentially did when you sang "Happy Birthday") is a different skill. You don't absolutely have to have one of the skills to be amazing at the other skill. There are many trumpet players that have both skills. Some became great and highly regarded using just one of the two skills. In most music the money skill is skill in reading. In jazz improvisation the money skill is being able to play instinctively by ear. You know Miles, Chet, Clifford, Clark, Dizzy, Lee, Kenny, Blue, Roy, Terrence, etc., etc. because of their ability to play instinctively by ear, not because of their reading chops.”

I would bet a majority of weekend commercial players (pop, rock, r&b, jazz, funk) don’t use charts, but I think the better players at least understand basic music theory, even if some of them are far from proficient at reading.

Maybe the OP’s original question has been somewhat misunderstood. “Playing by ear” is not necessarily the same thing as being “self taught.”

Brad


When I think of "self taught" I think in terms of the player developing the fundamentals necessary for success in general trumpet playing on their own without the benefit of formal instruction. So, to me, "self taught" refers to the mechanics of playing the instrument.

Learning to play instinctively by ear is also a "self taught" skill but the "self taught" part is much more internal than learning the fundamental mechanics of playing the instrument.

In learning the fundamental mechanics of playing the instrument you can imitate the mechanics used by others. Those mechanics have specific objective descriptions. Learning to play instinctively by ear involves a process which can only be generally explained.

Clark Terry had a three step approach to improvisation: Imitate. Assimilate. Innovate. That's a good description of the process involved in learning to play instinctively by ear and then expanding your "playing by ear" skill.

I'll conclude by commenting on this statement made by Mike:

"As HERMOKIWI points out, he doesn't need to read music in certain situations, such as when improvising. But he likely understands what he is playing. In other words, you can play by ear, but you still need to know the meaning of what you're playing."

I want to be completely honest and straightforward with anything I say on this forum. My sole objective is to share my own experiences in the hope that people reading my comments will consider my viewpoint, whether they agree or not, and will learn from the mistakes I've made and misunderstandings I've had during the course of my career. I'm not looking for glory. I'm way past that. The instrument is so complex that no one learns everything about it, so keeping an open mind and being willing to continue to search for knowledge and better ways is my primary objective as I continue to study the hows, whys and wherefores of the trumpet.

With that introduction I'm going to respond to Mike's comments: In fact, I have no idea how my improvised solos line up with theory. I know virtually nothing about theory. The notes just come naturally and instinctively the same as speaking comes naturally and instinctively.

I wasn't particularly good at the theory of grammar either but I think I express myself with a reasonable degree of articulateness. So I don't think that it's necessary for a player to understand anything about theory or to know anything about the meaning of what the player is playing to be extremely highly skilled in playing instinctively by ear.

For some players the ability to play instinctively by ear may very well be aided or enhanced by a knowledge of theory and an ability to explain in the the terms of theory what the player is playing. I will just say that, for me, playing instinctively by ear is an art of execution, an art of imitation, assimilation and innovation, and not an art of intellectual study or understanding. If I can play what I hear and can instinctively understand where it goes and I can produce the desired result then, to me, the underlying theoretical mechanics don't matter.

I don't know how much the underlying theoretical mechanics meant/mean to the likes of Miles, Chet, Clifford, Clark, Dizzy, Blue, Kenny, Roy, Terrence, etc. etc. or if or to what extent they could/can even explain them. My belief, however, is that during the course of playing their improvised solos they're doing essentially what I do: They aren't thinking at all about theory or what their playing means. Instead, I believe that they are simply responding instinctively to the underlying music by the same process they use to respond verbally in a spoken conversation.

The differences we hear among them have a basis similar to the basis of the differences we hear among them speaking: Their natural and instinctive word choice, their natural and instinctive sentence structure, their natural and instinctive thought process, their natural and instinctive regional accents, etc., etc. They're simply making what they play their own in the moment.

Of course everything in music can be related to underlying theory. However, I just don't think these improvisational players are consciously thinking about theory or what their playing means when they are actually playing. They are producing natural and instinctive music without reference to a theoretical analysis.

When you're in the midst of an improvised solo how would you even have time to do a theoretical analysis to guide you in the moment? It seems impossible/mind boggling to me. Maybe such a thing could be useful to a player in planning a solo but improvised solos are, by nature, spontaneous, so planning in advance would have the effect of narrowing the spontaneity and dampening the creative process. I just don't think the great improvisational players approach their solos in such an analytical way. I think they recognize the limitations such advance structuring would create. I don't think the great improvisational players favor such limitations. They just pick up the horn and play what comes naturally and instinctively to them without thinking about anything except matching up in their own way with what they're hearing.

Clearly this skill isn't going to help you if your task is to read down a chart. Reading is a different and independent skill from playing instinctively by ear. One is not a substitute for the other. It's wise to know your limitations and choose what you play accordingly.
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Avan
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2019 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've use to make my living playing in the early seventies, and never knew how to read music.

My ears where my guide, and how exactly did I do it? I have no clue, I just did.

I did not start even trying to learn to read music until my comeback in Sept. 2009 after a 36 year hiatus to include 6 years in the USAF. I did get asked in the military if I wanted to try out for the US Air Force band, however I turned it down because of low self esteem due to not being able to read music.

However I can now read music notes, but to say I can pick up a chart and play it, that still eludes me.
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Robert P
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2019 6:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avan wrote:
I did get asked in the military if I wanted to try out for the US Air Force band, however I turned it down because of low self esteem due to not being able to read music.

However I can now read music notes, but to say I can pick up a chart and play it, that still eludes me.

Sounds like an assessment of reality, not low self-esteem. There's not a chance you would have gotten into the Air Force band program with no reading skills and what are sure to also be weak skills in articulation, flexibility etc. if you haven't gone through conventional training. "I can kinda fumble my way through pop head tunes" wouldn't cut it. I gather if at the audition they had said "go ahead and play all major scales one octave through the circle of fifths" you wouldn't have had the vaguest idea what they were talking about? And probably couldn't have played any scales?

The Air Force band program is small and doesn't go through the Navy School Of Music like the Army, Navy and Marines - the Air Force expects bandsmen to have a high level of proficiency when they walk through the door. But the level you're describing wouldn't have gotten you in the door in any of the Armed Forces band programs.

This is a sample of the kind of thing that would be part of your everyday life.





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Brad361
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2019 8:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Making my living” certainly doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, we all have expectations and standards. I do agree with Robert P above, in that no reading skills would certainly preclude anyone from most any armed forces band or orchestra.
Sure, it’s possible to be an accomplished trumpet player with no “formal
training”, but it’s not likely, and no training or reading skills definitely decreases your chances. It’s next to impossible to get into any ensemble that requires reading skills if you don’t have any, whether it’s in the armed forces or elsewhere.

Brad
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2019 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My father played by ear. Didn’t know and still knows nothing about printed music, scales or any kind of theory.
He would just hear the song a bunch of times and then be able to play it. Don’t know if he would just work it out slowly but he would do it.
Nowadays he’s tone deaf as can be
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Robert P
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2019 4:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avan wrote:
However I can now read music notes, but to say I can pick up a chart and play it, that still eludes me.

I should have added - that's progress. Keep working at it. I strongly recommend lessons - a good teacher will keep you on a track of skill-building and keep after you to improve. Improving your sight-reading is a combination of having more technical facility, familiarity with rhythms and recognizing rhythm patterns and just continuous practice at reading. You're mostly training your brain to both process the visual input and to have the ability to execute. If you can't for example double or triple tongue at all, or don't have a certain range or be able to execute a particular interval or cleanly pick off a given note in the practice room, you're not going to be able to execute it when reading.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2019 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mariachi! I forgot about this guy: a close friend’s neighbor is the trumpet player in the Mariachi band that he fronts/leads full-time (he has no other job that I am aware of), and they don’t use any music whatsoever.

On a side note: Louis Armstrong could likely read music very well. He got his start in a more ‘normal’ (for his time) band program, and I have heard tell that he played some classical music.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 09, 2019 4:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe we’re confusing two different things here. There’s playing without reading charts, and there’s “self taught.” The first is probably fairly common, not so sure about the second when it comes to wind instruments. As others have pointed out, I’ve also worked with guitar, drums and even keyboard players who didn’t read AND were self taught, to date only one trumpet player and one sax player who were in those categories. Both of those two particular guys were awful.

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TrumpetMD
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 09, 2019 6:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brad361 wrote:
Maybe we’re confusing two different things here. There’s playing without reading charts, and there’s “self taught.” The first is probably fairly common, not so sure about the second when it comes to wind instruments. As others have pointed out, I’ve also worked with guitar, drums and even keyboard players who didn’t read AND were self taught, to date only one trumpet player and one sax player who were in those categories. Both of those two particular guys were awful.

Brad

Brad beat me to it. I agree that some people may be confusion the issue. Many people perform without music. For example, I practiced all morning today, and didn't open a book once. And I have 3 gigs this weekend, and won't use music for any of them. But "not using music" and "not understanding music" are two very different things.

Mike
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 09, 2019 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Agreed with the 2 posts above. I don’t know if Mariachi players can read written music or not, or if they’re ‘self-taught,’ I only know they don’t use any music on gigs. That may or not mean anything, as I do a lot of cover band gigs sans music, but that’s because I’ve memorized it...a far better player than me in this area has memorized basically every cover band tune in every key, and he also has most/all of the Real Book memorized (probably in all keys too, sheesh)...
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avan wrote:
I've use to make my living playing in the early seventies, and never knew how to read music.

I'm curious how you played tunes at all back years ago if you weren't up on scales and had no ability to read? How did you even know what buttons to press?

I sent you a PM.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Robert P wrote:
Avan wrote:
I've use to make my living playing in the early seventies, and never knew how to read music.

I'm curious how you played tunes at all back years ago if you weren't up on scales and had no ability to read? How did you even know what buttons to press?

I sent you a PM.


Having a hard time posting, tried answering your question twice but post wont show up>>>>Testing Testing
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avan wrote:
Robert P wrote:
Avan wrote:
I've use to make my living playing in the early seventies, and never knew how to read music.

I'm curious how you played tunes at all back years ago if you weren't up on scales and had no ability to read? How did you even know what buttons to press?

I sent you a PM.


Having a hard time posting, tried answering your question twice but post wont show up>>>>Testing Testing


Well that one worked. so one more try.

Lets see: All I did was press buttons and decipher how to blow in the horn to make a sound. As for tunes? Just played the tune over and over till I figured it out and memorized it. All of us in the band where self taught, from Drums, Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Sax, Trombone, Trumpet etc...
There was no judgement on our skill level since all of us where in that same boat, just sitting in different seating areas. As for scales, I had no clue I was even playing them or what they where.

However during my comeback I realized that I needed help, as I was fighting the horn and beating myself up. So I decided to seek help from teachers that included Grammy Award winners, Collage Music Directors, Studio Musicians, and also a professional orchestra player.

My goal was to be able to improvise to any song and in any key that was being played. <-----WIP

Hope this answers your question:

Currently working on my second album so stay tuned........
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 12:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So....you learned to play well enough to “earn a living” blowing into the horn and pressing random valves?
You later got instruction from “teachers that included Grammy Award winners, Collage Music Directors, Studio Musicians, and also a professional orchestra player.“ And you’re now working on a “second album.”

Absolutely no offense intended, and I have no way of knowing, but something isn’t adding up, in my opinion.

Brad
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 12:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That sounds a lot like early Chet Baker as well as the young Louis Armstrong, and most of the other musicians at the beginning of jazz, so why is it so incredible? There is even a quote in one Baker bio from the guy who sat next to him in high school orchestra, who said he would sit out the first time through, memorize the part the player next to him was playing, then play it perfectly the next time, using all the wrong fingerings.

Too many people here are invested too strongly in thinking their way is the only way!
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