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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."

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December 26, 2006 | Tab vs Notation

We assume that most who tackle jazz take the ability to read notation for granted. This could be a huge mistake on our part; if you're a folk/bluegrass musician, or former spandex-strutting rock guitarist who's stumbled on to this site for a little higher knowledge, you might still be seeking this ability.

Not sure if sight-reading is worth the trouble? We plead the case, but first you want to visit the website of JazzMando mentor and Berklee School of Music Professor John McGann for his thoughts on Tab vs. Notation:

Read Article: Why Bother Reading Notes, Anyway?

John brings up critical benefits in notation-reading prowess, like understanding note-to-note relationships, a clearer path to communicating rhythms, the ability to take musical knowledge and express it on other instruments. We also appreciate the importance of understanding music history, preserving songs that have been written decades, if not centuries prior.

Think of all the indigent music lost for all time by past cultures without the ability to document what could have been timeless art. We find primitive instruments in anthropological digs; what a shame we don't have access to the music created on them, the sounds, the aural drama. Do we want to doom our own posterity to this ignorance of art we produce today, as well?

Sure we can preserve our music aurally in recordings, but media changes radically fast. Hard enough to find a way to listen to treasured LPs (those big black disk things we baffle our kids with). With what are we going to listen to our treasured 8-track Elvis recordings in the next 50 years...

Music notation has been around, largely unaltered for literally centuries.

If you've not tried to read music, it's not too late. You can even pick up the free 32 page primer on understanding basic notation on John McGann's website.


Posted by Ted at December 26, 2006 5:43 PM

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