A vote for the 'untrained' musician ?

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aydee

Platinum Member
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As some of you might glean from a recent thread, after reading his autobiography, I've been pondering Miles Davis' view of other musicians. The ying and yang between the sheer creativity of an untrained musician versus the clone- like competence of trained musicians.

Miles had studied music, was a Julliard drop out and 'trained' with Dizzy and Bird. Through his life he was curious about all kinds of music he had studied the classical masters, Stockhausen, Brazilian and African music. He was very sound in theory and harmony ( very advanced as a matter of fact ) and all technical aspects of music.

Also he always hired guys who were trained and could play anything.

Despite this, he does go on to say that people like Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Sinatra, etc would not have made the kind of music they did if they were trained musicians, and he had a healthy respect for the musical success of the rock music 'greats' who were mostly untrained musicians.

Coming to me, I'm largely untrained too, though I've had a few lessons here and there and have been around guys who taught me a thing or two, but I've always regretted the fact that I didnt study it formally.

Does experience, life, totally compensate? Does very strict formal training leave out a key ingredient?

Where do you guys stand on this?

PS- Who were some of the jazz greats who were unschooled musically? I know Chet Baker was one..

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Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I'm eating my cake, too. I learned for a long time on my own and with other musicians... And as of the last few years, I've been seeing a few teachers so I can get down the aspects of "classical training" I'm missing.

All in the quest to play better, right?
 

Mark_S

Silver Member
A teacher gives you the tools, it's up to you how to use them.

That's what I think anyway ;-)
 

mattsmith

Platinum Member
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PS- Who were some of the jazz greats who were unschooled musically? I know Chet Baker was one..

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Entirely self taught


Django Reinhardt
Jo Jones
Lester Young
Dave Tough
Jack Teagarden
Charlie Christian
Ornette Coleman
Philly Joe Jones
Ella Fitzgerald
Billie Holiday
Roy Eldridge




Limited training

Charlie Parker...briefly joined school band at age 14 but was thrown out a couple of months later.

Duke Ellington...self taught composer...but had piano lessons

Art Tatum...although studied music at school for the blind, a child prodigy with perfect pitch, who learned to play by ear, picking out church hymns by the age of three, learning tunes from the radio and copying piano-roll recordings his mother owned.

Louis Armstrong...self taught vocalist. Past a brief stint in a Waif's Home band and some pointers from King Oliver also self taught as a trumpeter.

Bix Beiderbecke...self taught pianist...past brief failed attempt at Lake Forest Academy self taught as a cornetist.

Dannie Richmond...saxophone in school band but a self taught drummer.

Many more of course.
 

eddypierce

Senior Member

Entirely self taught


Philly Joe Jones
I've read (I think it was in Burt Korall's book Drummin' Men) that Philly Joe studied formally with Cozy Cole, and attributed a lot of his rudimental dexterity to Cozy's teaching. Cozy himself studied with Billy Gladstone, I believe.

Ed
 

mattsmith

Platinum Member
I've read (I think it was in Burt Korall's book Drummin' Men) that Philly Joe studied formally with Cozy Cole, and attributed a lot of his rudimental dexterity to Cozy's teaching. Cozy himself studied with Billy Gladstone, I believe.

Ed
Eddy you might have me on that one. I'm going to check it. Thanks for the possible clarification.Sometimes jazz history is pretty spotty.
 

Bruce M. Thomson

Gold Member
I have been pondering the same question and I now find regretting not having some proper training although I certainly would not be the same type of player I am now and there are many aspects of that, I like. When I want to execute a certain fill or add some panache it is in my head what I want to do, but it will often come out lame sounding which will affect what I do next.
As a chorus from a Little Feat song goes "your mind makes you promise's your body can't fill".
I am conducting some self study on certain area's I want to improve via this site (very fortunate that we have this site, what a difference it would have made to me back in early yeras) and DVD. At 56 I still can't stand that sinking feeling that occurs right after that stinker you laid down as it grips you for a few seconds . On the whole I would say I like my playing and don't feel lost without the early education of instructors, just wish I had made some better choices about who I played with in the early years.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
..

Thanks, great info there, Matt. I find it shocking that Philly Joe was untrained given his chops. Django pretty much had his own technique given the fact that he had only 2 fingers on his fretting hand. Ornette and Lester Young too? Wow!

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GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
I think it takes schooling and playing outside of strict teaching to be all you can be. A mix of the technical and self learned helps. I think anyone developes their individual style by playing and not being taught. It's like you can teach "feel" or "groove". I hope that made some sense.
 

Moon4Sale

Member
As great as many untrained musicians have become we will never know how much greater they may have been otherwise. So the subject remains mystery;) But I would like to add that when I see cats like Mark Mondesir it's difficult to imagine him any better as a result of.
 
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Mike_

Junior Member
I learned from Life and countless days on the road and I am happy for it, I like the fact that click tracks annoy me, I like that my licks are mine, I like that I learned by playing instead of repeating what someone else already did and I like that my live music has flaws in it it adds passion and life which is really missing from today's canned music.

I regret not learning how to read music , but i do not regret where it may have taken me..


You can't spend what you ain't got and you can't loose what you never had....
 

Deltadrummer

Platinum Member
It's a hard question to answer. I was listening to an interview with Jim Keltner and Terry Bozzio on DC, and he was saying that if he had the chance, he would have studied drumming. Bill Bruford says the same thing. Many of the early rock guys didn't study because there were no rock teachers around. so you took a few snare drum lessons or maybe learned jazz.

I am totally taught musician because I came through the school.system. My primary school teacher was actually a drummer. He was also an ass who was studying law part-time. My HS music teacher was the same way. I think many of us who come through bad teachers have to over come that and bad teaching can really damage a player. Phil Maturano talked about this back a few years ago, right?

Part of the process is identifying musical intelligence. What is it? You can't talk about it because that is linguistic intelligence. You can't analyze it because that is mathematical intelligence.

If you have a teacher who understands what it is and can teach it, then it's worth the price of admission. Otherwise you're just wasting your time.
 

Mighty_Joker

Silver Member

Entirely self taught


Django Reinhardt
Jo Jones
Lester Young
Dave Tough
Jack Teagarden
Charlie Christian
Ornette Coleman
Philly Joe Jones
Ella Fitzgerald
Billie Holiday
Roy Eldridge




Limited training

Charlie Parker...briefly joined school band at age 14 but was thrown out a couple of months later.

Duke Ellington...self taught composer...but had piano lessons

Art Tatum...although studied music at school for the blind, a child prodigy with perfect pitch, who learned to play by ear, picking out church hymns by the age of three, learning tunes from the radio and copying piano-roll recordings his mother owned.

Louis Armstrong...self taught vocalist. Past a brief stint in a Waif's Home band and some pointers from King Oliver also self taught as a trumpeter.

Bix Beiderbecke...self taught pianist...past brief failed attempt at Lake Forest Academy self taught as a cornetist.

Dannie Richmond...saxophone in school band but a self taught drummer.

Many more of course.


Formally Trained
Dave Weckl
John B. Riley
Vinnie Colaiuta
Jack DeJohnette
Tony Williams
Steve Gadd

I believe the 6 in my list constitute the best drummers of the past 50 years, and probably of all time. That they are all formally trained says it all, to me. I don't think "untrained" can ever truly compete. It has already been said that the greats who were self-taught could have been sitting on an untapped well of potential, had they had proper schooling.

Just my 2 pence.
 

wsabol

Gold Member
Formally Trained
Dave Weckl
John B. Riley
Vinnie Colaiuta
Jack DeJohnette
Tony Williams
Steve Gadd

I believe the 6 in my list constitute the best drummers of the past 50 years, and probably of all time. That they are all formally trained says it all, to me. I don't think "untrained" can ever truly compete. It has already been said that the greats who were self-taught could have been sitting on an untapped well of potential, had they had proper schooling.

Just my 2 pence.
^This.

Just to add to the lists..

Formally Trained
-Brian Blade

Sort of Taught
-Buddy Rich

Self Taught
-Art Blakey
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
I've spent a lot of time contemplating the dynamic between education and individuality and how it applies to music.

One thing that occurs to me is it doesn't take formal education to be exposed to information today. 50 years ago, you couldn't just ask questions on an internet forum or watch a video of any drummer you wanted to see how they executed things, held the sticks, etc.. Today, you can go to YouTube or buy a DVD and watch instructional video whenever you want. You can hear a drummer wax philosophical on his approach to music or his instrument. Or view transcriptions if you want to solve a pattern or figure something out. The availability of information gives this generation a big advantage.

I would encourage people to learn their instrument. Having more ability gives you more choices from which to make your personal statement. But I would guess that, in practice, the access to information also probably infuses a sameness. We're going to apply some of the things we know and the more we share the more likely we are to use some of those same things.

It gets philosophical, too, because better is a subjective concept. Flawless technical execution is a byproduct of good technique that can be taught. But that doesn't necessarily equal better music. Some of my favorite music was made by people who didn't have great technique. In fact, part of their individuality was their flaws. And I liked what those flaws and shortcomings imparted to the music.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Formally Trained
Dave Weckl
John B. Riley
Vinnie Colaiuta
Jack DeJohnette
Tony Williams
Steve Gadd

I believe the 6 in my list constitute the best drummers of the past 50 years, and probably of all time. That they are all formally trained says it all, to me. I don't think "untrained" can ever truly compete. It has already been said that the greats who were self-taught could have been sitting on an untapped well of potential, had they had proper schooling.

Just my 2 pence.
Compete in what sense? Who can play the most notes in the shortest time? Music simply isn't a competition unless you make it so. You're implying that it's basically impossible to learn something on your own or do it your own way, and the only way to "compete" is to copy from and learn directly from someone else? Beyond that, I don't think a teacher really helps with the single most important aspect, and that's listening to, understanding, and using feel, groove, and musicality in your playing.

I think in a lot of cases, conventional thinking and methodology sometimes gets in the way of real personal development and individual thought. To flip your potential argument, perhaps those drummers who learned on their own would never have gained some of their own quirks and personal style or trademarks had they been more focused on learning the same way some teacher did.

Some folks learn best by reading, some by watching, some by knowledge transfer, and some by their own path. I think the last option is arguably hardest, but has some payoff that you cannot get by letting someone else guide your learning.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
What is trained and untrained anyway. It`s about the qualkity of the training and how you choose to use it. Trained or untrained are useless categorisations.

However, being a teacher of guitar and drums that have in my last two jobs replaced untrained musicians/teachers the damage that can be done when you don`t really have a concept of how to teach children and don`t really have professional skills is nothing less than insanity. I try to be gentle when this has happpened to my students and thankfully in my current job they`re all really great kids and open to do things "my way". With propper guidance they could all be so much further along. Being trained isn`t just about technical music skills, but also about a teachers philosophy, personality and attitude towards music, life and the world as a whole.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Formally Trained
Dave Weckl
John B. Riley
Vinnie Colaiuta
Jack DeJohnette
Tony Williams
Steve Gadd

I believe the 6 in my list constitute the best drummers of the past 50 years, and probably of all time. That they are all formally trained says it all, to me. I don't think "untrained" can ever truly compete. It has already been said that the greats who were self-taught could have been sitting on an untapped well of potential, had they had proper schooling.

Just my 2 pence.
Yeah, I'd agree that some of the best players of all-time are in that list. But if you asked me for the "6 best drummers of the past 50 years," I would swap a few of them out for players on the "self-taught" and "limited training" lists others have posted.
 

bigd

Silver Member
I know multiple people who make their living from the percussion world. ALL of them have formal training and music degrees. I'm talking about careers here not playing in a band and gigging on the weekend. Paychecks, benefits, sick days. You non schooled players can say what you want but you're chances of making a living out of music are way less then the players coming out of the educational institutions.
 

Thaard

Platinum Member
Formally Trained
Dave Weckl
John B. Riley
Vinnie Colaiuta
Jack DeJohnette
Tony Williams
Steve Gadd

I believe the 6 in my list constitute the best drummers of the past 50 years, and probably of all time. That they are all formally trained says it all, to me. I don't think "untrained" can ever truly compete. It has already been said that the greats who were self-taught could have been sitting on an untapped well of potential, had they had proper schooling.

Just my 2 pence.
Funny thing is that Vinnie dropped out of Berklee to play with bands, so I don't know if he can be classified as formally trained in the sense of Weckl and the others. Sure he had classes with Chaffee, but not as long as the others.
Good "untrained" drummers: Dennis Chambers(can't read music and is entirely self-taught), I even heard Jojo Mayer being mostly untrained, except from some classes with Jim Chapin. Also, Buddy Rich. So, your argument is not entirely valid.
 
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