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Old 08.07.2014, 00:48
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Ask a Musician

Well, we have an Ask a Scientist thread, and I have a dozen questions about music. I'm fairly average, so that means most other people do too. So it make sense to open a thread for us all.

Ok, my first question.

How much information is there is sheet music? That is, if two random accomplished musicians picked up the same set music without ever having heard it, would what they played sound alike, or is there a lot of room for interpretation?

If you did the same thing with an orchestra, would it sound reasonably coherent, or would the first attempt be a cacophony?
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Old 08.07.2014, 01:23
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Re: Ask a Musician

Well you have to read all the notes
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Old 08.07.2014, 04:25
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Re: Ask a Musician

And follow the dynamics, and count correctly, and stick to same tempo...but yes, all of these should/would be indicated in the music, but can vary from edition to edition depending on by whom it has been arranged or edited.
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Old 08.07.2014, 06:06
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Re: Ask a Musician

if 2 musicians read the same sheet music, what you hear will sound generally the same. the interpretation part is reserved for artists, and there is a massive distinction between artists who have a training in music versus a musician. for example, you can find tens of thousands (if not more) renditions of various Chopin pieces played by musicians that all sound more or less the same, but a piece played by Van Cliburn will sound distinctly different from the same piece played by Horowitz.

I suppose it's no different than it is for any other skilled trade, any contractor can build you a house to an architect's specs but only certain contractors can build you a home.
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Old 08.07.2014, 08:43
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Re: Ask a Musician

Depends how good you are at sight-reading. It's one of my strong points so you'd pretty much hear whatever is written. Some people need more time to get to grips with what's on the paper.
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Old 08.07.2014, 08:50
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Re: Ask a Musician

A piece of music can be played technically perfectly (follows exactly the music as written) and sound terrible and soulless - you might as well shove it through a high-end midi device. Great musicians make tiny adjustments (intuitively) that make the piece sound fantastic.

Unfortunately, in most music schools in Europe, technical perfection is promoted over "it sounding good to the listener". This is largely because uncreative people with technical ability have ended up in charge of the musical institutions. Such people have forgotten what music is for, and why the great composers write/wrote music.

Recordings of Rachmaninov have been analysed and shown that with some of his greatest performances... he didn't play his own music exactly as it was written - and that's not counting the mistakes.

Whether it's two conductors with the same orchestra, or two musicians playing the same piece, there's considerable scope for differences. The pieces will clearly be the same piece, but the delivery of one can be pedestrian, while the other is divine.
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Old 08.07.2014, 10:23
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Re: Ask a Musician

And musical notation is - can only be - an imprecise way of rendering the intent of the music.
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Old 08.07.2014, 10:45
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Re: Ask a Musician

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How much information is there is sheet music? That is, if two random accomplished musicians picked up the same set music without ever having heard it, would what they played sound alike, or is there a lot of room for interpretation?
As well as the points already mentioned, it depends very much on the instrument being played. Although the sheet music will give some indication of, for example, quieter or louder sections (Piano, Fortissimo, etc.) most instruments will still vary by player. Some older ones like the harpsichord would be more or less identical one player to another, but the very reason that was superceded by the PianoForte was to allow that greater level of variability.

Also, now I think about it, it's not usual (but it is sometimes done) to give an exact beat on sheet music, so the speed would be up to the player to interpret.

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If you did the same thing with an orchestra, would it sound reasonably coherent, or would the first attempt be a cacophony?
Assuming there's someone to lead them, at the very least to give a beat, a competent orchestra would probably sound OK to the lay ear, certainly not a cacophony. It's the conductor's job to hear that first attempt and then adjust various sections or individual players to get the overall sound they want.
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Old 08.07.2014, 11:02
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Re: Ask a Musician

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A piece of music can be played technically perfectly (follows exactly the music as written) and sound terrible and soulless - you might as well shove it through a high-end midi device. Great musicians make tiny adjustments (intuitively) that make the piece sound fantastic.

Unfortunately, in most music schools in Europe, technical perfection is promoted over "it sounding good to the listener". This is largely because uncreative people with technical ability have ended up in charge of the musical institutions. Such people have forgotten what music is for, and why the great composers write/wrote music.
this is spot on. I think is largely the reason why many music students give up on classical music.
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Old 08.07.2014, 11:06
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Re: Ask a Musician

I had a whole series of piano teachers when I was young who sucked the joy out of my whole learning experience so I gave it up (much to my regret). I am learning the acoustic guitar now and really enjoy it, my teacher is laid back and we make good progress, but he tries to make it fun and we only get "technical" when necessary. Maybe I enjoy it because I'm an adult and its as far away from work as possible but either way, music should be fun and not overprocessed.
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Old 08.07.2014, 11:26
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Re: Ask a Musician

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this is spot on. I think is largely the reason why many music students give up on classical music.
I studied violin as a child and gave up with the first opportunity (moved to a different city, music school not close to home - end of story). At that age, I just couldn't take up the sort of commitment my teachers were asking for. Pity. I see that here many children are studying instruments but there's no real pressure to perform exceptionally, to compete. Good thing, IMO.
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Old 08.07.2014, 11:34
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Re: Ask a Musician

Now this thread is making me curious...

What instruments do my fellow EF members play?

I use to play experimental cello (or what my friend once referred to as "intuitive cello"). I never had any formal training but really love the instrument, especially when run through effects (e.g. space echo, delay, etc.).

If I could go back, though, I'd love to play the harp.
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Old 08.07.2014, 11:44
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Re: Ask a Musician

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this is spot on. I think is largely the reason why many music students give up on classical music.
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I had a whole series of piano teachers when I was young who sucked the joy out of my whole learning experience so I gave it up (much to my regret).
Too right - two years of doing practically nothing but scales killed music for me. Up until very recently that is - I've learnt magnitudes more in the last 3 months regarding music than I did in those two years

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Now this thread is making me curious...

What instruments do my fellow EF members play?
Sequencers and very bad guitar. And no I can't read those maddening dot things.
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Old 08.07.2014, 12:14
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Re: Ask a Musician

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What instruments do my fellow EF members play?
.
Now? Badly acoustic guitar, and it's not because of the guitar, defo. (someone thought I could use a norman blake, not my fault)
Plan to study drums, I'm fascinated by them.
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Old 08.07.2014, 12:22
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Re: Ask a Musician

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this is spot on. I think is largely the reason why many music students give up on classical music.
This is something I'm very conscious of with my music students, especially as my teachers when I was a kid were very much focused on the notes and the technical side of things.

I try for a balance, as I think being able to read music and understand music theory is important, but that being able to interpret the music and 'let go' of the theory (once you understand it) is also very important. So we do lots of improvisation and chord playing as well as note reading.

With regard to dynamics and speed etc, it's funny how hard it is sometimes to get kids (or adults) to rely on their own judgement. The idea that it's up to them how to interpret a piece of music (even with dynamic markings) can be quite confronting, although very liberating one they get the hang of it!

The idea that a note that lasts for one count might be long or short, depending on the speed played or sung, or that there is no one way of playing forte or piano... or that there are lots of different ways to play a C chord, for example. Very interesting stuff!
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Old 08.07.2014, 12:29
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Re: Ask a Musician

When younger I took training for Organ, Piano, Clarinet, Trombone, and Flute.

When I was in my 20s I self taught myself the Guitar. Nothing gives me more pleasure than playing the guitar although I am significantly worst at it than any other instrument. But for me, music is a personal thing so I only play when alone.
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Old 08.07.2014, 14:47
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Re: Ask a Musician

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Now this thread is making me curious...

What instruments do my fellow EF members play?

I use to play experimental cello (or what my friend once referred to as "intuitive cello"). I never had any formal training but really love the instrument, especially when run through effects (e.g. space echo, delay, etc.).

If I could go back, though, I'd love to play the harp.
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Old 08.07.2014, 15:04
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Re: Ask a Musician

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Now this thread is making me curious...

What instruments do my fellow EF members play?

I use to play experimental cello (or what my friend once referred to as "intuitive cello"). I never had any formal training but really love the instrument, especially when run through effects (e.g. space echo, delay, etc.).

If I could go back, though, I'd love to play the harp.
I'm into sax 'n' violins. Mostly the former these days.

I spent 20-odd years playing classical orchestral music, and now have played in a big band for getting on for 14 years. They are two completely different disciplines; as one of 24 violins you can get away with the odd inaccuracy whereas there's no hiding when every part is a solo part. The parts might often be more difficult in orchestral music, but the apparent simplicity of the notes to play in swing conceals the massive difficulty of playing at precisely the same millisecond as 16 other people for precisely the same length of time.

I suppose for me the answer to the question is, sheet music normally contains all the information you need, but not necessarily everything you might want to express. An analogy might be a housing estate: according to the plans, all the houses look the same externally, they have the same room layout and might even have the furniture in the same places as dictated by the room sizes. But every occupant is going to paint the walls different colours, display different ornaments etc. to put their own personal touch on it.
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Old 08.07.2014, 15:24
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Re: Ask a Musician

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What instruments do my fellow EF members play?
Guitar (12- and 6-string acoustic, sometimes bluesy electric). Mandolin (not so well). Mainly folk/rock/pop stuff.
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Old 08.07.2014, 16:05
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Re: Ask a Musician

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I'm into sax 'n' violins. Mostly the former these days.
gratuitous sax and senseless violins
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