Re: [linux-audio-user] Opening up the discussion

From: Dave Phillips <dlphillips@email-addr-hidden>
Date: Mon Jul 25 2005 - 22:19:56 EEST

Jay Vaughan wrote:

> i think, somewhat, that we're talking about taking a computer and
> turning it into a musical instrument.

Umm, that's exactly how I approach the thing. Ditto for guys like Paul
Lansky and a host of other musicians who use the computer to compose,
record, and produce music. Otherwise computers aren't really very
interesting things for me.

> when was the last time you ever required someone to read the manual
> for their 6-string before they could play it? or their bass? or a
> flute? or the violin?

They don't usually come with extensive manuals anyway, but at the first
lesson I do describe the instrument to the student so they know what to
ask for or say when they take it in for repairs or even a simple
restringing ("Which E string did you need replaced, sonny ?"). I don't
make them memorize the details, they'll "get it" if they stay with the

> sure, it takes skill to play an instrument.. but its the doing that
> makes the skill, not the reading.

Pardon me, but a sh*tload of study (aka "reading and thinking") needs to
be undertaken when a player ventures into a domain like classical or
jazz guitar. Performance practice details make a difference, unless you
don't care that your treatment of Villa-Lobos sounds exactly like your
Dowland. To do the job right requires both doing and reading. Frankly,
since the advent of players like Steve Vai, even rock guitar playing has
raised its entrance bar.

One of my students has had some problems understanding aspects of rhythm
that were bound to dance forms. I suggested he take dance lessons, he
did so, and his rhythmic sense has greatly improved. That's a study re:
musicianship, it wasn't directly involving his instrument, and it made
all the difference in the world to his playing.

> users should -never- be -required- to get trained before the
> instrument will work. the instrument should work, by itself, by
> default, anyway..

I'll speak here as a professional instrumental teacher.

The only context in which "the instrument should work, by itself"
applies is whether it's actually playable, i.e., it isn't a broken or
otherwise flawed or unplayable instrument.

The statement that "users should -never- be -required- to get trained
before the instrument will work" is too weird for me to comprehend. How
exactly does a guitar "work" by itself ? It can sit there, look good,
and do nothing, and that's all it can do before someone who knows how to
play it (i.e., they are trained, either by self or other) picks it up
and plays it.

Much of my discomfort for the "it should just work" mantra comes from
knowing that it takes real effort to acquire any degree of performance
skill. I happen to like the fact that the arts are still non-democratic,
i.e., you *must* be able to put up, or you should shut up. Don't get me
wrong, I'm most happy that the arts are open for anyone's involvement,
and computers have made it possible for more people to try their hands
at making music *without having to master an instrument*.

I don't believe that everyone needs to learn how to read standard music
notation or study music theory. In fact, my first goal is to get the
student *playing* something as soon as possible (I follow Francois
Couperin's advice here). Inspired by this achievement, the student more
easily acquires the harder stuff, but always with the concrete goal of
performance. However, if a student wants to learn to play classical
guitar, then indeed they do need to learn how to read standard notation
(tablature sucks at representing counterpoint and polyphonic rhythm),
and if they want to become sight-readers then they are compelled to
study theory (and I advise composition studies for more advanced
players: there's nothing like writing a sonata yourself to get into the
depths of playing one).

Or maybe I'm not understanding your POV ? :)


Received on Tue Jul 26 00:15:13 2005

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