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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."



« Clear tone in between the dots | Main | Analysis: Macroscopes and Microscopes Part 2 »

September 4, 2007 | Analysis: Macroscopes and Microscopes Part 1

Great art, whether music, painting, or architecture is always a combination of the intellectual and the aesthetic, intuitive and the cognitive. It's always a tricky proposition looking "under the hood" of a musical composition or performance, the creative process is as complex as the artist him or herself, multiplied by the listener's personal reaction to the music.

That said, picking apart an artist or composer's music indulges insights into our own playing development and proficiencies. It can be as simple as a few licks or musical nuggets, or as complex as two semesters of college studying how to replicate the advance progression of a Bach Fugue. We all do it to some extent, and in understanding what others do, we enable ourselves to internalize aspects of our favorite artists and composers, integrating into our own playing and improvising.

The ability to analyze is as much a skill as playing. It takes a good ear and a knowledge base of music fundamentals, but above all it takes an open mind, one able to concede multiple snapshots and perspectives of the same bit of musical information.

The end of a phrase can be the start of another. A tonic 7th chord (in blues) can be the key center of a measure but also a dominant 7th leading to a new temporary tonic. An accidental can be a benign passing tone or a "blue note," or more radically, an indication of a crucial key changing agent.

Or all of them...

We've witnessed college level music students totally frustrated in theory class, trying to pigeon-hole a composer's singular structural intention, only to discover three or four possible conclusions. Often music is not black and white, but that's what great art is all about.

We want to look at some specific tricks in musical analysis to help you with your own playing and understanding of songs in Part 2. For now let's just leave you with the thought that as you listen to music and try to unwrap the present, consider you'll need two perspectives, larger sense of form and context, as well as intricate sensibilities of chord and tone function. Both work with each other, even when they seemingly contradict on paper.

Ultimately, it's the ear that will be the final judge.

Posted by Ted at September 4, 2007 5:50 AM


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