Sunday, March 18, 2012
3/18/12 Letting Go
I started my my first band when I was 15 or 16. I had some music lessons when I was 8 until about 11 or so. Stuff didn't stick because it wasn't what I wanted to play - it was classical and I liked some of it. Also there were always distractions around the house.
I actually wanted to start on the accordion but my grandmother didn't want me playing in bars. Don't blame her necessarily but that's been my tension a lot in life since... Play in bars? How much? etc...
I got my first accordion when I was 15. The band I helped to start played rancheras at first. Eventually we went to all English music. Another life long tension... starting in bands that play Chicano music and then ending up with a lot of standard English music.
At the same time there's just lots of great music that I love. There must have been a jazz station or something that I heard growing up because when I got to high school I got the idea that learning jazz piano would be a smart move. Maybe it was from listening to the college stations. That's the only place I could hear Esteban Jordan, outside of my own cassettes.
I signed up and there were all these horn players and the one piano player. They had all come from orchestra or been in jazz band awhile. Since I came "late" he said what horn can you play? I couldn't so he was like "what the hell are you going to do in my class then?" I said I could play guitar and bass. So he put me on bass. He put out a several sheet piece of music in front of me and said play that. I said what are the chords?
He figured out I couldn't read music and said, can't you sight read that? I said no, but if you let me take it home I can figure it out. He wouldn't let me. I said, can you write the chords above the music and I can do it. He said the only option was to sight read it and that he wasn't going to teach me how to do that.
Then he would do fun stuff in class like ask a question. He would say something like here's the note "a" - if you wanted to play A major what would the third be. I would raise my hand and he would wait a long time for the other kids in class. After they didn't answer he would say "OK what do you think it is?" I would say c# and he would then go into a long tirade at the other students because they didn't know this and the darn rock musician knows this. He never provided any positive feedback, just used me to beat up his other students.
Had he taught some jazz history he may have had to deal with the reality that early jazz was learned mostly by ear. The heavy reading didn't come until later.
He gave me a D or F for the first half of the semester and the regular piano teacher in the next room took me on. She said, pick some music and bring it into class and we'll work on it.
I went to the music store and brought into class some Rush and maybe Pink Floyd. I would go through and play parts and ask her questions. I came to a 13th chord and played it and she asked me "why did you get a bad grade in jazz class?" After hearing the story she went to talk to the jazz teacher, explained that I knew all the fundamentals and that I just read slowly. His response was "so what?"
She came back and told me she wasn't happy with how that happened. She taught me for the rest of the semester and that was cool but it wasn't what I wanted. I didn't quite know how to explain what I was looking for. Basically, I've been stuck in that for all these years. I've only had a few people show me things of value musically since then. I tend to pick stuff up by accident.
I think if I could buckle down and REALLY woodshed it for a year I would make some great strides. I know what I need to know, I just don't know the order of difficulty for some of what I'm trying to get. It will be a process of just going for it and taking it week by week and sometimes coming back to things I'm not ready for.
I'm a decent musician. I've been playing most of my life and can play a few instruments. The fun part will be getting to actually blend rancheras, jazz, blues, and funk. Hopefully there's an audience for it. If not it will still be fun!
I think finishing my comps and mid-terms opened my brain back up a little bit.